Raleigh, N.C. — A longtime aide to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has been named research director for a new project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill created by legislative fiat in the 2016 state budget.
The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory was created under the business side of the university, rather than the academic side. Berger, R-Rockingham, and other leaders said its mission would be to study new technologies for natural resource management and make recommendations to lawmakers. It is a public-private partnership that seeks funding from the commercial sector as well as the state, which set aside $1 million for its first-year budget.
Dr. Jeffrey Warren has served as science policy director to Berger since 2011. In that capacity, he helped craft the GOP leadership's loosening of environmental regulations and limits on local regulations stricter than state rules. He also helped push for SolarBees, the solar-powered agitators that failed to affect pollution in Jordan Lake.
The creation of the Policy Collaboratory caused controversy among faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, who said it was not established under standard academic processes and could be subject to political pressure in its research areas and recommendations. However, a board led by university faculty will oversee the center's research.
Warren's salary will be $175,000. He will report to director Brad Ives, former assistant secretary at the Department of Environmental Quality during Gov. Pat McCrory's administration. Ives also serves as vice chancellor for campus enterprises and chief sustainability officer.
When the project first appeared in the Senate's budget, some critics posited that it was created for Warren, who has long denied that that was the intention. According to a news release from the Policy Collaboratory on Monday, Warren was selected after a nationwide search.