RL30760 - Environmental Protection: New Approaches
11-Dec-2000; John Blodgett; 22 p.
Abstract: In recent years, the interest in alternatives to the nation's ¨command-and- control¨ approach to environmental protection has heightened. Driving this interest are concerns that the current approach is inefficient and excessively costly, and that it is ineffective in addressing certain problems such as nonpoint source pollution and global climate change. Several blue-ribbon panels have issued reports on environmental protection needs for the next century, including one headed by former two-time Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, William D. Ruckelshaus - The Environmental Protection System in Transition: Toward a More Desirable Future (1998)- and one by the National Academy of Public Administration - www.environment.com: Transforming Environmental Protection for the 21st Century (2000).
Alternative environmental protection approaches range from proposals that would replace the current system to ones that would supplement it. Elements of the proposals include enhanced information processes, greater reliance on market mechanisms, devolution of federal responsibilities to state and local decisionmakers, and substitution of private markets for public actions. The proposals for the most part represent a mix of techniques, and few are really new. Most of the ideas have been developed and promoted for some time; many have been incorporated to some degree in existing programs.
This report summarizes briefly a number of ¨new approaches,¨ grouped under the following categories:
? Information: Approaches to improve the quantity and quality of information to enhance the knowledge base underlying environ- mental decisions (e.g., risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis).
? Public Sector Processes: Approaches to restructure governmental processes for making environmental decisions (e.g., devolution).
? Incentives: Approaches that emphasize incentives as opposed to regulatory or financial penalties for achieving environmental ends.
? Market Mechanisms: Approaches that rely on markets and common law for environmental decisions to the extent possible.
? Management Principles. Approaches to inculcate environmental values in public or private managerial decisions (e.g., sustainability).
Each approach seems to have some useful applications. Each has some disciplinary, ideological, or institutional proponent; but none commands the multi- stakeholder commitment necessary for truly transforming environmental programs. There may be consensus that environmental protection programs could and should be improved, but beyond modest iterative steps, there is as yet no consensus on what that would entail nor on how to achieve those steps. Critical to this lack of consensus is an apparent split in proponents' goals - those most focused on improving the efficiency of the current process, versus those most focused on finding new ways to address so-far intractable environmental problems such as global climate change. [read report]