Environmental Policy: Technology, Business & Government
COURSE ORGANIZATION

What is Environmental Policy?

LECTURE NOTES
What is Environmental Policy?

Active Approach

Institutions “systematically review societal events for their effects, and set an agenda of government actions…” (Charles Jones, 1984)

Making policy is essentially about finding the right role for government to play in a democratic setting

Policy Approaches

Three patterns for setting the policy agenda

Government takes a passive role, and reacts to private interests

Government provides a process, and encourages private interests to participate in setting priorities

Government plays an active role in defining priorities and setting goals

Challenges in Setting Policy

More problems demanding attention than there is public money, staff, expertise, and technology to solve

Vested interests who benefit from not having policy in place that carries a regulatory component

Powerful stakeholders often influence policy more than ordinary citizens

Stakeholders in Policy Making

Stakeholders

Persons who will be affected by a given policy, whether negatively or positively

Experts who can assist in the formation, implementation, or assessment of a given policy initiative

Community setting where policy is made

Any citizen interested in policy making

Public administrators implementing policy

Role of Technology in Policy Making

Technology provides information and tools for monitoring, measuring, interpreting, and mapping the environment

Technology spawns “technical elites” whose knowledge, expertise, and ideas frame the debate and structure the choices

The NIMBY Effect

Citizens overwhelmed by technology and fears of toxicity reject the siting of new facilities in their neighborhood

“Not in my backyard”

Opportunities to express preferences and concerns at “public meetings” and “informational hearings”

Extends review processes, but results in policies that are more acceptable to all

Environmental Policies

Energy Policy

Efficiency, Conservation, Sources, Demand Management, Transportation

Land Use Policy

Zoning, Open Space, Coastal Access, Agriculture, Natural Habitats

Pollution Policies

Pollution Prevention Programs, Abatement, Avoidance, Compliance, Penalties, Waste Management, Recycling

Biodiversity Policy

Endangered Species, Habitat Protection, Ecosystem Management

Who Makes Policies

Different levels of government

Local, Regional, State, Federal Government

Elected Officials

Represent constituencies

Reflect public opinion

Agency Personnel

Technical expertise on policy areas

Based on scientific findings

Public Informational Hearings

Criteria for Effective Policy

Broad participation by Stakeholder Groups in policy formation

Incorporates short- and long-term goals of society at large

Based on sound technical information

Feasible and effective for solving identified problems

Aligned with priority objectives, including ecological sustainability

 

Policy Approaches

Three patterns for setting the policy agenda
Government takes a passive role, and reacts to private interests
Government provides a process, and encourages private interests to participate in setting priorities
Government plays an active role in defining priorities and setting goals
[
Institutions “systematically review societal events for their effects, and set an agenda of government actions…” (Charles Jones, 1984)]
Making policy is essentially about finding the right role for government to play in a democratic setting

Challenges in Setting Policy
More problems demanding attention than there is public money, staff, expertise, and technology to solve
Vested interests who benefit from not having policy in place that carries a regulatory component
Powerful stakeholders often influence policy more than ordinary citizens

Role of Technology in Policy Making

Technology provides information and tools for monitoring, measuring, interpreting, and mapping the environment
Technology spawns “technical elites” whose knowledge, expertise, and ideas frame the debate and structure the choices

Stakeholders in Policy Making

Persons who will be affected by a given policy, whether negatively or positively
Experts who can assist in the formation, implementation, or assessment of a given policy initiative
Community setting where policy is made
Any citizen interested in policy making
Public administrators implementing policy <>

The NIMBY Effect

Citizens overwhelmed by technology and fears of toxicity reject the siting of new facilities in their neighborhood
“Not in my backyard”
Opportunities to express preferences and concerns at “public meetings” and “informational hearings”
Extends review processes, but results in policies that are more acceptable to all
Policy Models
Model: Simplified description of reality that can help explain a process or phenomenon

Examples of Policy Models
Institutional
Systems
Group process
Net-benefits

Institutional Model

Long-standing approach
Describes and analyzes institutions, laws, and procedures
Formal, legal influences on policy (statutes, court cases, agencies, regulations, procedures, etc.)

Systems Model

Rooted in Systems Theory (founded on analogies to biological or social entities)
Societal actions seen as a series of interrelated systems, coping with and adapting to changes in its environment
Based on analysis of inputs, products or outputs
Dynamic view of organizations

Group Process Model
Dominant theme in political science, linked to the concept of interest groups
Policy is the outcome of competition for influence, among interest groups
Relative power determines the substance of policy and the action of government
Life cycle alternative between interest groups and regulating public agencies
Can result in policies that serve the narrow interests of an industry over the general welfare of the citizenry

Critics say this model reduces government to the role of an arbiter of the preferences of the dominant interest

Net-Benefits Model

More a product of the thinking of economists
Administrators seen as analysts who should make decisions that offer the greatest net benefit or “utility” to society

Decision seen as “good” when it meets the criterion of “efficiency” (i.e., the state at which neither party can gain more without worsening the position of others

Desired Process
Define policy options
Quantify the likely effects of each
Compare them to a set of objectives
Select the one with the best ratio of benefits to costs

Limitations to Models

Institutional Model (Does not account well for informal relationships or patterns of behavior)
Systems Model (Is less useful for understanding the internal processes that determine policy)
Group Process Model (Cannot explain internal, bureaucratic influences on decisions)
Net-Benefits Model (Decisions often do not follow the analytic criteria necessary to arrive at accurate explanations;
most environmental decisions do not maximize net benefits)

Types of Policy Models (see handout)

Other Policy Concepts
Bounded Rationality (Herbert Simon)
Incrementalism (Charles Lindblom)
Garbage Can Model (John Kingdon)

Bounded Rationality

Conscious decision to make the most of the available resources to achieve an identified goal

Assumes a decision process in which goals are clear and agreed upon, policy options and criteria for evaluation are defined,
and information about the consequences of options are complete

Decisions are made in a linear, sequential way by fully informed people

Seldom achievable in organizations
Goals are ambiguous or conflicting
Human cognitive skills are limited
Time is in short supply
Policy options are fluid or poorly defined
Simon used the terms, “satisficing” or “bounded rationality” to show the limits

Incrementalism
Lindblom proposed this term to describe the process by which policy is (or should be) made
Policy is made in small steps, at the margins of choice, through “successive, limited comparisons”
Policy mistakes can be more easily corrected; provides for more stability  when policy is made more gradually
Term is also used to describe a policy resulting from a series of “non-decisions” or “slippage” of agreed upon policy initiatives
Examples: Variances of zoning laws; lack of enforcement of environmental regulations or failure to monitor resource degradation <>

Garbage Can Model

nGovernment bureaucracy (like most academic institutions) is essentially an “organized anarchy”
Goals are unclear, maybe in conflict
Participation in decision making is fluid and unpredictable

An agency is a loose collection of ideas and proposals (not so well-ordered)
Information comes into play at multiple points in the process of decision making and is interpreted in various ways
An organization is a “collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations where they might be aired…” <>

Decisions made in four separate, but connected streams

Problems
Solutions
Participants
Choice Opportunities

Problems arise and disappear; solutions are drawn from a standard tool kit, or from innovative thinking
Participants move in and out of situations where choices are to be made

Policy Making Approaches
U.S. Policy Process (Kingdon)
“Streams and Windows” Model
Problem stream
Conditions or issues defined as problems
Become a focus of government action <>
Political stream

Events, trends, institutions, and interest groups determine which problems will receive attention
Move forward on the government’s agenda
Policy stream
Shapes the decision agenda and sets the list of policy alternatives considered
Less visible participants play important roles in policy making (bureaucrats, congressional staff, think tanks, lobbyists)
Persuasion and argument are used

Policy changes come about when the “streams” converge to take advantage of “windows of opportunity”

Policy Instruments

Information
Provide information about risks; people will avoid those risks (labeling, warnings)
Called “risk communication”
Example: Radon management in homes
Technical assistance programs (EPA, state agencies, municipalities)
Emergency Planning; Right to Know Acts

Direct Regulation

Widely used tools (command and control approach)
Ambient standards, emission standards, water quality criteria, use restrictions, bans
Advantages - Simplicity, uniform treatment of sources and polluters
Drawbacks - Technology not always easy to select; may discourage innovation

Market Incentives

Pollution fees
Marketable permits
Deposit-refund systems
Market barrier reductions
Elimination of government subsidies
Goal--System that equalizes the marginal costs of control across firms

Strategies for Policy Making

Vary in complexity, clarity, and origins
May be defined in laws, with detailed actions and deadlines
May evolve from different agencies to match a complex problem
May be incremental
Always linked with available resources
Examples of strategic choices
Pollution control, risk reduction, or pollution prevention
Whether to attack a problem nationally or regionally
Whether to focus on avoidance of future problems, or remediation of present ones
Who should pay for liability and remediation - taxpayers or polluters

Increasing Stakeholder Involvement & Participation

How to bring citizens, agencies, industry, scientists, and others together
Citizen panels and review boards
Who to invite
How to use the resultant views

Regulatory negotiation

Use of mediation and negotiation to resolve environmental disputes

Stages of Public Policy Cycle

Policy formulation (designing & crafting)
Policy legitimization (political support)
Policy implementation (effecting policy)
Policy evaluation (measuring results)
Policy change (modifying as needed)

Usefulness of Policy Cycle Model
Emphasizes all phases of policy making

Points to continuous nature of the policy process

Accommodates shifting public opinion
Includes influence of elections
Response to environmental accidents
Incorporates technological innovation

Federal vs. State Influence

1970’s – strong central government role
1990’s – shift toward active role of states in setting environmental priorities

Emphasis on tailoring environmental policies to local realities
Problem of consistency of policy formulation and implementation

References

Cohen, Michael D., James G. March, and J.P. Olson.  1972.  “A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice.”  Administrative Science Quarterly 17(1-25).
Fiorino, Daniel J.  1995.  Making Environmental Policy. 
University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
Jones, Charles.  1984.  An Introduction to the Study of Public Policy.  Brooks/Cole Publishers. Monterey, CA.
Lindblom, Charles E.  1968.  The Policy Making Process.  Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Simon, Herbert.  1976.  Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision Making Processes in Administrative Organizations (3rd edition).  Free Press, NY.
Vig, N.J. and M.E. Kraft.  2003.  Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century.  CQ Press, Washington, DC.


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Copyright: Gaytha A. Langlois- 1996
Bryant University, Smithfield, RI 02917
Updated: January 2012