Environmental Policy Final

Why do we need policy?

Social Norms

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Environmental Justice

Imperfect Information


Public Goods

Common-Pool Resource

What evidence is needed for policy change?

Evidence of a problem

Available policies to deal with the problem

Political willingness to act

What is the brief background on US environmental policy? 

Pre-1970: Limited federal involvement

1970s: Major federal initiatives

1990s-present: More complex relationships, changing priorities

Need for Policy


Market Failures

Social Norms/Goods

Market Failures:


Public goods-nonrival and nonexclusive

Lack of information

Common property resources


Social norms/goods:

Equity-progressive vs. regressive policies

Social norms

Environmental justice

What is the commons?

A resource that is available to some if not all of the public

Using the resoruce will take away from someone else

“cattle example”-Hardin

Hardin v. Ostrom

Hardin: Fierce intervention is needed because people have the freedom to breed “Freedom in the commons brings ruin to all”


Ostrom: Too much government involvement can ruin a system that was working “Tragedy of the commons is real, but not inevitable”

Policy Tools

Command and control (direct regulation)

Tradable permits (cap and trade)

Taxes and subsidies

Information/educational campaigns

Voluntary agreements
Status quo 

Unofficial Stakeholders


Interest groups

Think tanks

Research organizations

Non-governmental organizations

Communications media

Resultsof the Clear Air Act Ammendments (CAAA)
Acid rain concentrations dropped dramatically
Examples of Taxes for Policy Tools
User fees, fishing and hunting licenses, gas taxes, emissions taxes
Information/Educational Campaigns as policy tools

Labeling standards on food products: “certified organic”, “fair trade”, “no preservatives”


Energy STAR label


Country of Origin labeling

Example of voluntary agreements as Policy Tools

33/50 program with EPA:

Using a baseline in 1988, the goal was to reduce emissions by 33% by 1992, and then 50% by 1994

Basic Policy Analysis (Sawicki)

Define the Problem

Establish Evaluative Criteria

Identify Alternative Policies

Evaluate Alternative Policies

Display and Select Among Alternatives


Monitor and Evaluate Outcomes

What is needed in the Policy Analysis Matrix?

Need to consider all policy alternatives

Need to include “status quo” or “no-action” alternative”

All criteria that will be considered

What are some emerging policy issues?

Growing populations in arid regions


Over-appropriated water resources/need for policy change


Uncertainty about future availability


Improved understanding of ecological results of water diversions

Explain the LB 962

Requires NRDs and the DNR to be more proactive in anticipating water conflicts


Addressses how to better manage and reduce use in over/fully appropriated areas


Requires the designation of hydrologically connected water

What determines the value of water?

Time (season)

Location (Phoenix v. Atlanta)

Quality (urban v. rural)

Use/Non-use values of water

Use: travel cost, how much more money woudl people be willing to spend if there was more water in the lake?


Non-use values: How many people are willing to pay to improve fish habitat by increasing stream flow?

What are some reasons for soil conservation?

Run-off sediment affects water quality

Dust storms

Removal of productive top soil

Why did the Dust Bowl occur?

Land expansion left little vegetation

Soil was exposed

1930s drought reduced soil moisture

Describe the Shelterbelt Project:

Implemented as a result of the Dust Bowl

Planted about 18,600 miles of shelterbelts

Trees were able to control winds

Extra vegetation helped hold down the soil

What were some priorities of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program?

Water quality

Ground and surface water conservation

Air quality

Soil erosion and sedimentation reduction

Wildlife habitat for at-risk species

Why was there a Clean Water Quality Act in 1972?

What were some of the results?

40% of waterways are not up to federal standards

Difference between nonpoint sources and point sources

Greater federal role (setting standards, EPA permits)

What were some of the goals of the Clean Water Act?

“to restore the integrity of the Nation’s waters”

“fishable and swimmable waters”

“zero discharge of pollutants”

“eliminate the release of toxics in toxic amounts”


What are some water quality concerns?

Organic pollutants

-consume oxygen in water

-lead to reduced dissolved oxygen and higher biological oxygen demand

-reduce ability to support aquatic life

Point Source

Can be linked to a single facility: paper mill, waste treatment plant

Permit required under CWA

Nonpoint Source

Run-off from a field or open land area

Cannot be linked to a single land owner

Not regulated under CWA

Generally managed with voluntary subsidy programs

Endangered Species Act

Protects all species and the ecosystems they depend on

Listed by individual or organizational request


What is the Noah problem?

Limited space to hold all species

How to choose which species to tend to?

-most valuable/highest social benefits

-most at-risk

-most diverse

Why target payments?

Agencies have a limited budget for conservation programs

Money should be spent so that it provides the most environmental benefit possible

Types of policies to reduce deforestation

Development of property rights

Taxes on unsustainable forest products

Government monitoring

Land reform

Incentives to use more sustainable agricultural practices

Increased recycling or reduced demand for wood products

Why does gridlock occur with environmental policy?

Divergent policy views

Seperated power and bicameralism

Complexity of environmental problems

Lack of public consensus

Influence of organized groups

Ineffectual political leadership


Major Federal Action Significantly Affecting the Quality of the Human Environment




Environmental Impact Statement

Types of Policies protecting forests in Costa Rica

Debt-for-nature agreements

Tradable carbon dioxide permits

Bio-prospecting fees


Watershed charges

World Bank Ecomarkets program

Criteria for climate policy evaltuation


Environmental outcome

Cost effectiveness

Distributional equity


Participation and compliance