ACE and the Environmental Manager

From the President—A&WMA's Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE) will be held in Pittsburgh, PA, June 4–8, this year. It is a complex affair and like the Association, its offerings are diverse and worthy of study. I think it is safe to say that there is something, and likely several things, of value to environmental managers and their employees. Let's consider a few. 

by Scott Freeburn in the May 2017 issue of EM 

Seeing the State-of-the-Art
Whether it be equipment, analytical methods, or the latest regulatory strategies, you will find the state-of-the-art at ACE. Technologies in the environmental practice change as rapidly as in any other business sector and it is hard to keep up. Attending ACE is an opportunity to efficiently catch up on your areas of interest. Amid the exhibits, technical presentations, and panel discussions, opportunities abound for updating yourself and your staff on a wide range of issues.
Getting the Big View
There is no environmental program available that can match ACE for the breadth of air and waste topics addressed by key personnel in their fields. I am always awed by the great diversity of what is going on. New analytical methods, new regulatory concepts, and new insights into environmental and social effects are often publicly presented for the first time or, equally important, probed and explained at ACE. ACE attracts speakers from the highest levels of their organizations, as well as international experts. The comprehensive peek over the horizon that ACE provides is unmatched anywhere. If your responsibilities include understanding and developing strategies to deal with future environmental issues, you should be represented at ACE.
Technical Details
The hundreds of technical presentations given at ACE are organized along a number of investigation lines, both traditional and topical. They are based on the current needs of the environmental practice, especially evolving compliance requirements. Many of the expert panel presentations, which are less formal, focus on current or proposed compliance concerns. Many offer a breadth of opinion and approaches regarding challenges faced by companies, agencies, and municipalities. The technical program is a heavy course load, but if you spend time perusing it, I guarantee you will find information of value to you and your organization. After all, every presentation is aimed at helping solve someone's problem.
Services, Equipment, and the Real World
As always, exhibitors are a key part of ACE. They include suppliers of control, sampling, monitoring, and analytical equipment; software specialists in environmental data collection and processing systems; and, of course, consulting firms. You will find both highly specialized consultants and those offering a wide range of capabilities and geographic locations. The exhibit area offers environmental managers easy access to huge amounts of practical information from suppliers dealing with your issues every day.
A very practical aspect of every environmental manager's job is understanding how to deal with compliance and other environmental challenges as effectively as possible. These challenges are strong drivers for programming at A&WMA, especially the many section and chapter meetings. For those of us who have had facility compliance responsibilities, case studies have been the most rewarding and most practicably useful parts of Association meetings. A&WMA continues to enhance its programming to meet the needs of our regulated members. This year's ACE has added exhibitor-sponsored informational presentations and case studies with practical application to industrial and other facilities. Look for this additional programming in the exhibit hall.
Formal and Informal Training
ACE is a training bargain. Training opportunities begin with formal professional development courses led by highly qualified instructors and held ahead of the main meeting. These courses often address technical details pertinent to permitting, compliance determinations, and environmental management, among other topics. Depending on the course, certifications of completion and continuing education credits may be available. A second track of training classes has been developed by the Association's Young Professional Advisory Council. These classes are aimed at assisting young professionals in gaining basic knowledge about topics like air pollution control equipment, the structure of air and waste regulations, and basic management and decision-making skills. Finally, the broad scope of technical presentations offers the opportunity to assemble focused training in selected areas. The content of this training is up to the attendee and perhaps his or her supervisor. The hundreds of presentations given over the three-day conference provide abundant learning opportunities at a very competitive rate when compared to other training options. A little planning is all that is required.
Perhaps the most unappreciated parts of ACE and other large conferences are the contacts made and the conversations had with peers and potential business partners during the course of the meeting. These conversations are important to all involved, but I believe environmental managers particularly benefit because the numerous contacts are an efficient way to gather information on the broad range of issues managers must address in the course of their jobs. I will bet that some of the personal contacts made at ACE will serve you throughout the rest of your career.
As a former corporate and facility environment, health, and safety manager, these are the areas of value I see at ACE. I hope you can take advantage of them and enjoy yourself in Pittsburgh next month.