Environmental science and policy
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Environmental Science and Policy. Chapter 15. Outline:. Decision Making Environmental Policy Cycle NEPA and EIS Environmental Law Statutory Law Case Law Administrative Law International Treaties Dispute Resolution Collective Action. DECISIONS IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD.

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Environmental science and policy

Environmental Science and Policy

Chapter 15



  • Decision Making

  • Environmental Policy Cycle

    • NEPA and EIS

  • Environmental Law

    • Statutory Law

    • Case Law

    • Administrative Law

  • International Treaties

  • Dispute Resolution

  • Collective Action

Decisions in an uncertain world


  • Adaptive Management

    • A solutions approach designed to test clearly formulated hypotheses about the actions being taken.

      • Learning by doing or adaptive Management ,adopted by natural resource managers

      • Polices are designed at the outset to utilize scientific principles to examine alternative and assess outcomes.

Wicked problems

Wicked Problems

  • Environmental problems tend to be intractable because they are nested within sets of interlocking issues.

    • Often poor match between bearers of costs and bearers of benefits.

      • No value-free objective answers.

        • Best approach comes from community based planning & often consensus building.

Precautionary principle

Precautionary Principle

  • Four basic precautionary actions.

    • People have a duty to take anticipatory steps to prevent harm.

    • Burden of proof of carelessness lies within new technologies,process, activity and not the public.

    • Full range of alternatives must be examined by people before using a new technology.

    • Decision must be open, informed, democratic & must include all affected parties.

Environmental education


  • Broad Goals

    • Improve understanding among the general public of natural and built environments and the relationships between human and their environment.

    • Encourage postsecondary students to pursue environmental careers.

    • Environ. Science is highly interdisciplinary and integrates information from many fields of study, how the world works and how we should behave as environ citizens.

Environmental policy


  • Environmental Policy - Official rules and regulations concerning the environment that are adopted, implemented, and enforced by a governmental agency.

  • National Policy e.g Clean Air Act.

  • The international Policy e.g Convention on International Trade in Endangered species.

    • Also encompasses public opinion.

Environmental policy1

Environmental Policy

The policy cycle

The Policy Cycle

Political decision making

Political Decision Making

  • Politics as Power

    • Politics is a struggle among competing interest groups as they strive to shape public policy to suit their own agendas.

  • Rational Choice:

  • No policy should have greater total cost than benefits

    • In choosing between policy alternatives, preference should be given to those with the greatest cumulative welfare and the least negative impacts.

Arguments against rational choice

Arguments Against Rational Choice

  • Conflicting values and needs are not comparable due to lack of information

  • Few agreed-upon broad social goals (rather benefits on specific group or individual)

  • Policymakers not motivated by societal goals.

  • Large investments create sunken costs

  • Uncertainty drives policy makers toward past.

  • Costs and benefits difficult to calculate.

  • Segmented nature of policy making in large bureaucracies makes policy making difficult.

Environmental science and policy


  • National Environmental Policy Act (1970) signed by President Nixon:

    • Authorizes Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as the oversight board for general environ conditions.

    • Directs federal agencies to take environmental consequences into account during decision making.

    • Requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for every federal project having significant environmental impact on quality of human environment.

Eis enviromment impact statement

EIS (Enviromment Impact Statement)

  • ESI is one of the most powerful tool in the environment arsenal:

  • Every EIS must contain:

    • Purpose and need for project.

    • Alternative to proposed action.

    • Statement of positive and negative impacts of the proposed activities.

    • A final ESI document is often 100’s of pages and takes approx 6-9 months to prepare.

Environmental law


  • Laws that govern environmental quality, natural resources & ecological sustainibility.

  • Statutory Law: The Legislative Branch

    • Federal laws (statutes) are enacted by Congress and signed by the President.

      • After introduction, each bill is referred to a committee or sub-committee for hearings and debate.

      • Language is modified, multiple bills may be combined, and overall bill is passed on to full committee.

Legislative branch

Legislative Branch

  • A bill succeeding in full committee is reported to full House or Senate for a floor debate.

    • Amendments proposed at each stage.

  • House and Senate versions are often different, and must be sent to conference committee to meld differences.

  • Bill goes back to House and Senate for confirmation.

  • Passed on to President for signature.

Case law the judicial branch

Case law: The Judicial Branch

  • Establishes environmental law by ruling on constitutionality of statutes and interpreting their meaning.

    • Legal Standing :First one must determined if participants have a right to initiate an action.

The judicial branch

The Judicial Branch

  • Criminal Law - Derives from federal and state statutes that prohibit wrongs against the state or society.

    • Charges always initiated by a government prosecutor.

      • Guilt or innocence of defendant determined by a jury of peers.

      • Violation of environmental statutes constitutes a criminal offense

The judicial branch1

The Judicial Branch

  • Civil Law - Defined by a body of laws regulating relations between individuals or corporations.

    • Burden of proof lies with prosecution.

      • Guilt or innocence based on whether the defendant could reasonably have anticipated and avoided the offense.



  • Strategic Lawsuits Against Political Participation - Practice of suing citizens who criticize businesses or government agencies over environmental issues.

    • Legal defense costs can be exorbitant.

Administrative law the executive branch

Administrative Law: The Executive Branch

  • More than 100 federal agencies have environmental oversight.

    • Federal agencies often delegate power to a matching state agency to decentralize authority.

    • They usually have power to set rules,adjudicates disputes & investigate misconduct.

The executive branch

The Executive Branch

Regulatory agencies

Regulatory Agencies

  • EPA - Primary agency with responsibility for protecting environmental quality in US

    • Cabinet-level department.

  • Department of Interior (Natural Resources)

    • National Park Service

    • Bureau of Land Management

    • US Fish and Wildlife Service

Regulatory agencies1

Regulatory Agencies

  • Department of Agriculture

    • US Forest Service

  • Department of Labor

    • Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA)

  • Revolving door with workers moving back and forth between industry and government.

International treaties and conventions


  • Over past 25 years, more than 170 environmental treaties and conventions have been negotiated initiated to protect our global environment.

    • Unfortunately many of these environmental treaties are vague and many do not comply due to public embarassment.

      • Most nations unwilling to give up sovereignty.

        • International court has no enforcement powers.

Dispute resolution


  • Arbitration is a formal dispute resolution, based in a trial-like setting.

    • Arbitrator takes a more active role than a judge and is more interested in resolving the disputes than application of the law.



  • Mediation is a process in which disputants are encouraged to come up with a solution on their own.

    • Useful in complex issues with multiple stakeholders with different interests.

Collaborative approaches to planning

Collaborative Approaches to Planning

  • Community-Based Planning -Incorporates holistic, adaptive, pluralistic approaches.

    • Collaborative Approaches - Working with local communities to gain traditional knowledge and gain local acceptance of management plans.

Collective action


  • Student Environmental Groups

    • Student Environmental Action Coalition

    • Public Interest Research Groups, etc.

  • Mainline Environmental Organization

    • National Wildlife Federation

    • Sierra Club,etc.

  • Radical Environmental Groups

    • Earth First

    • Sea Shepherd,etc,

  • International Nongovernmental Organizations(NGOs) have become powerful aspects of environmental protection.



  • Decision Making

  • Environmental Policy Cycle

    • NEPA and EIS

  • Environmental Law

    • Statutory Law

    • Case Law

    • Administrative Law

  • International Treaties

  • Dispute Resolution

  • Collective Action

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