Sunday, February 28, 2010

Assignment #3

13) As Shepherd and Bowler and Slotterback’s articles mentioned, I think environmental policy makers should engage the public when they have limited information about the science of an environmental issue. It can be a way for realizing democratic governance although it is inevitably connected with conflicts and inefficiency during the reach of consensus among policy actors. I think several ways for increasing public involvement in the process of environmental policy-making are: some forms of public advisory committee (or panel or planning group), public hearing, informal conference, public education and information, public meetings, workshops, surveys, policy delphi, citizen information bulletin, and the like.

14) CV is enormously flexible in that it can be used to estimate the economic value of virtually anything. As Portney mentioned in his article, several environmental issues and non-environmental programs can be applied to the CV methods for estimating total economic value, including all types of non-use (or passive-use values) and use value (including existence values). The CV method is applicable to water resource management issues having multiple interests among several policy actors. In a real case in the early 1980s, Glen Canyon dam experienced the following dilemma: Operation of the dam to provide peak-load power was adversely affecting the downstream ecosystem in the Grand Canyon, and significantly reducing the quality of recreational rafting. The valuation question of concern was how much recreational rafting was worth, compared to the market value of the peak-load power supply. After EIA studies were conducted, Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992, which is specified in the first contingent valuation studies as part of a federally funded economic analysis. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill, as discussed in Portney and Diamond and Hausman’s articles, CV methods were also used for estimating economic damage assessments as well as other use and non-use values and costs, such as water purification costs, and economic losses such as the decrease in revenue from recreation and fisheries. The flexibility and generality of CVM’s application was the main reason why this valuation method received most of the EPA’s “demands” in the monetary assessment of the social costs and benefits associated with the new regulations on environmental policy.

15) Air pollution, such as CO2 emissions and the issue of their reduction as an environmental policy, can be one of the examples that Diamond and Hausman mentioned in their article as a case of “embedding effects” (p. 46). If people are asked for the willingness-to-pay to reduce carbon dioxide in one region (or area) and then asked to value the whole area (e.g., the whole surface in a country) to reduce CO2 levels, the amounts stated may be similar because of the lack of internal consistency. Moreover, in some cases, people’s expressed willingness to pay for something has been found to depend on where it is placed on a list of things being valued. This is referred to as the “ordering problem.” The Exxon Valdez oil spill case, by the same token, can also be used to argue the limitation of CV methods, as in Diamond and Hausman’s argument regarding the “some number is better than no number” fallacy (p. 58). According to them, assessments of lost non-use values by means of the CVM method should not be used in court because the CV is a deeply flawed methodology for measuring non-use values.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Toward sound science: An institutional effort for controlling manipulation of scientific results on environmental policy

Some chapters of Vig and Kraft's book have made me reconsider the meaning of "sound science." What is interesting to me is that several efforts for manipulating scientific results on environmental policy-making have been widely taken by political parties, the White House, and public agencies, and we don't know exactly how many cases have been found until now.

Through a reference in Vig's chapter, I found Chris Mooney's book The Republican War on Science, dealing with the politicization of science under the Bush administration (but I haven't read this book yet). Moreover, I also found an interesting article published in 2009, "The Obama Administration's Challenges After the War on Science : Reforming Staffing Practices and Protecting Science Integrity in the Executive of Branch," written by Vaughn and Villalobos in the Review of Policy Research. Although this article is not related to environmental policy, it discusses the possibility of future stances of the Obama administration toward sound science.

I would like to deal with congressional efforts toward "sound science" on environmental policy as my final research project, so last week I looked for several bills dealing with congressional efforts for controlling intentional manipulation of scientific results by political parties, the White House, or public agencies. However, I could not find any related or similar bills in the 111th Congress. Only one bill, the "Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policy Making Act," which was introduced by the 109th Congress, deals with congressional efforts to overcome the politicization of science.

Does anyone know or have some clue about these congressional efforts for overcoming the politicization of science?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Op-Ed: The environmental policy stances and changes on the Obama administration

Historically, there are several policy actors influencing environmental policy: the three branches of constitutional power (the executive, legislative, and judicial), the president, mass media, the citizens themselves, powerful interest groups as pressure groups, and the like. Of them, the roles of presidents in the United States regarding environmental policy have been significant since the 1960s (Vig, p. 75). Although each administration has a different policy stance on environmentalism, the priorities of environmental policy, setting a relationship between environmentalism and pro-developmentalism (such as encouraging economic development at the expense of environmentalism) and setting relationships between a hostile Congress and courts, public opinions, no administration can deny the importance of environmental values per se and move. The big difference among administrations regarding environmental policy depends on how seriously each president prioritizes it as one of the key policy instruments or strategies for realizing his governing philosophies. External (economic decline or terrorism) and internal (staffing and budgeting of agencies regarding environmental policy) factors also play a role in creating the environmental performance of each administration.

As several scholars mentioned (Vig, Ch. 4; Guber & Bosso, Ch. 3; Sussman, 2006), environmental policy and politics have strikingly shaped American politics. Several federal laws, increasing public spending regarding the environment, and regulations for controlling (air and water) pollution have been made since the 1970s (Vig, Ch. 4), from President Nixon’s establishment of the EPA, through the 1970 Clean Air Act and, 1972 Clean Water Acts, the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, to the 1980 Superfund Act. Contemporary environmentalism has been defined as much as anything by the overarching ideological and partisan debate over the role of government (Guber & Bosso, p. 67) so each administration depended on rather different power solutions to realize their governing goals. As Vig (Ch. 4) mentioned, many presidents, such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, follow the “administrative presidency,” depending on the powers of his office rather than on cooperation with other parts of government. Any president has vast authority to influence policy, even written legislation, through executive orders, agency rule-making, and administration fiat (Baker, 2010). Nixon and the elder Bush, considered as environmental presidents, were likely to opportunistically respond to public pressures while Reagan and the younger Bush oriented toward pro-developmentalism at the expense of pro-environmentalism. Carter and Clinton had positive environmental agendas but failed to achieve many of their primary goals (Vig, Ch. 4).

Compared with the former administrations, Mr. Obama’s stance on environmental policy showed stronger pro-environmentalism with different power relationships orienting towards constitutional and democratic governance with the emphasis on his powers as opinion leader and party and legislative leader (Vig, pp. 92-3). Most of the environmental policy stance in the Obama administration was started by the “departing Bush administration” (Rosenbaum, p. 166) and set new national standards for realizing pro-environmentalism at the local, state, federal, and international level. With strong public support in the first year, Mr. Obama re-invigorated the EPA for conducting “sound science” with “professionalism and scientific integrity” (Vig, p. 91). He also “denounced the Bush administration’s secrecy and constitutional abuse of power, and promised to restore a proper balance between the executive and other branches of government” (Vig, p. 92). The environment has been one of the first important policy issues in Obama’s budget proposal, so public spending on the environment has strikingly increased during his first term. Regarding international environmental cooperation, the Obama administration declared “support for new, tough national mercury emissions standards, aggressive federal action on climate change, and other policies rejected by the Bush administration” (Rosenbaum, p. 166).

The Obama administration’s efforts and policy stances toward pro-environmentalism can put him on the right track to becoming a more successful environmental president than his predecessors. He tries to open a policy window for transformation of existing policy discourse of environmentalism with the balance of powers (executive vs. other branches) as well as environmentalism and pro-developmentalism. He also tries to actively organize pro-environmental groups or a “sustainable green coalition” (Guber & Bosso, Ch. 3) as key policy actors influencing the policy-making process. His policy stance on environmentalism can create strong supports and trusts within the international community and therefore improve the image of the United States as an environment-friendly country.

However, Obama’s power relationships with a strong emphasis on balance between the executive and the other branches, including constitutional institutions as well as interest groups and citizens, might change with complicated political and economic contexts. The first year in his presidency, Obama showed a rather different power orientation compared with the existing presidents’ “administrative presidency” with the support of executive power. He attempted to create progress in the relationship with Capitol Hill, especially through discussion with Republican leaders regarding several policy issues, but a changing politico-economic environment, as in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts and the long-term continuation of economic decline since 2008, has made Mr. Obama change his power orientation from a constitutional and democratic presidency to an administrative presidency. Mr. Obama has decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused several social and environmental policy proposals and to enforce his administrative powers like the recess appointment of several nominations for environmental agencies in the face of partisan gridlock. As Baker (2010) mentioned in the New York Times, the White House might legitimately say that Mr. Obama’s policy stance through “increased focus on executive authority reflected a natural evolution from the first year to the second year of any presidency,” but his power change might cause him to lose popularity and drive him into a corner with the loss of his traditional supports, such as environmentalist groups or related citizens.

Reference (except Vig & Kraft’s book)

Baker, P. (2010, February, 13). Obama is making plans to use executive power for action on several fronts, The New York Times, A11.
Sussman, G. (2006). The environment as an important public policy issue, Quest, Fall, Vol.9, Issue.2, pp. 12-15.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The EPA policy stance under the Obama administration (a video clip from C-SPAN)

It is a C-SPAN video clip of an interview with Lisa Jackson, the current EPA administrator. I think this video clip is very helpful for us to understand the Obama administration's approach to environmental issues and how the EPA will pursue policy on the environment under Jackson’s leadership.

Enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A policy stance on ground-level ozone (smog) standard under the Obama administration

Web address:

Broder, J. M. (2010, January 8). E.P.A. seeks tighter rules to cut down air pollution: Agency says health benefits will outweigh costs to industry and governments. The New York Times, A1; A3.

The Environment Protection Agency (hereafter “EPA”) under the Obama administration proposed a stricter standard for diminishing air pollution last month, especially focusing on the extent of emissions of “ozone” or “smog” as greenhouse gas. Historically, the policy stance on ground-level ozone standards at the federal level, according to the EPA (, has oriented toward establishing standards for the amount of ground-level ozone allowable and gradually strengthened these standards, from 0.08 ppm (parts per million) in 1971, to 0.075 ppm under the Bush administration. However, the ground-level ozone standards have not always consistently strengthened; instead, there has been repeated relief and strengthening of allowable ground-level ozone standards, revising the 1-hour standard to 0.12 ppm in 1979 from the 1971 standard (0.08 ppm) or 0.084 ppm in 1997 under the Clinton administration (see article). Based on the logic that “ground-level ozone triggers a variety of health problems even at very low levels and may cause permanent lung damage after long-exposure” (EPA Web site), the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (hereafter “NAAQS”) and let the EPA control the extent of ground-level ozone by counties. The Obama administration’s proposal sets a primary standard for ground-level ozone of no more than 0.060 to 0.070 ppm, which would replace the standard of 0.075 ppm, imposed by the Bush administration. According to this article, “the EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days” and “the new rules would be phased in between 2014 and 2031, with deadlines depending on how dirty the air is in a given region.”

The Obama administration’s stance on ground-level ozone orients toward stronger pro-environmentalism than the Bush administration which focused on the economic impact of environmental policy with more emphasis on economic development than environmental protection (Vig, Ch. 4; Kraft & Vig, Ch. 1). The Bush administration’s rule on ground-level ozone was based on the recommendations of the EPA’s own experts, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which brought about many criticisms and objection from pro-environmental groups and several states and finally filed suit from states challenging the 2008 EPA standard (see article; Mikalonis, 2010). Challenging “all of the Bush-Cheney policies” (Vig, p. 91) on environmental policy and related decisions, the Obama administration firstly (1) let the EPA review a wide variety of policy decisions (including regulations of ground-level ozone standard) made by the Bush administration, (2) made an alternative proposal of ground-level ozone (or smog) standard, and (3) will issue a final rule by this year. According to Mikalonis (2010), the Obama administration’s proposal intends to change the NAAQS under the Clean Air Act, especially focusing on establishing air quality standards based on scientific information that “defines clean and safe versus dirty and unsafe air quality.”

I think the Obama administration’s proposal on a ground-level ozone standard based on tighter rules than the existing standard is a reflection of his governing philosophies towards pro-environmentalism. As this article mentioned, the new standard under the Obama administration brings about several benefits to the citizens, such as diminishing serious “heart or lung diseases” from air pollution, “along with thousands of cases of bronchitis, asthma and nonfatal heart attacks.” Many public interest groups and advocacy groups, such as the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, welcomed the proposal, saying that “this will ultimately mean cleaner air all across America.”

I read some readers’ feedback from this article in the New York Times’ Web site, and many readers show various opinions about tighter rules for the EPA’s smog reduction. Of 219 total reactions, many people (almost 60-70 % of readers) agree with the federal (EPA) action to cut down air pollution because this effort can improve people’s health status. However, some critics of the EPA’s action frequently tend to mention procedural and constitutional legitimization. In other words, those criticizing the EPA’s tighter rule feel suspicious about whether or not unelected bureaucrats like EPA officials can relevantly reflect people’s true voices and thoughts in the public decision-making process; one of the debates on the Web site is whether or not it is related to “unconstitutional action” which allows for bureaucrats to voluntarily interpret the American constitution. Another debate on the new rule is over increasing the economic burden of industry. Pro-environmental groups and the EPA argue that the implementation of the new rule “will cost $19 billion to $90 billion a year by 2020, to be largely borne by manufacturers, oil refiners and utilities” but “those costs would be offset by the benefits to human health, which it valued at $13 billion to $100 billion a year in the same period” (see article). On the other hand, the industry and related interest groups worry about “unnecessary energy cost increases, job losses, and less domestic oil and natural gas development and energy security.” I think there is no best answer on establishing the new rule. Whether or not this new rule can be set depends on several factors, such as socio-economic, political contexts, and situational factors and public opinions. Although I am not sure whether or not it is possible, more sophisticated and objective resources and calculations on the impact of the new rule, economic burden on industry, and making causal relations among ground-level ozone and health problems should be required for making consensus among policy actors. This can be a way for the new proposal under the Obama administration to overcome criticism of opposition groups, most of which are located in industry and related interest or lobby groups.

Mikalonis, S. (2010, January 13). EPA revisits Bush-era smog rule. “Green Blawg: Laws, regulations, court decisions and policies pertaining to environmental issues” under (

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Join in the John J. Rhodes lecture in public policy and American institutions this week!

I received a flyer from Sunday's New York Times regarding a great lecture on environmental policy. There will be a lecture this week, February 11, 7:30 p.m., at Galvin Playhouse at ASU Tempe campus. Guy Dauncey, a speaker, author, and organizer who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future and to translate that vision into action, will lecture on "The Challenge of Tackling the Global Warming Crisis."
I think this is a good opportunity for PAF546 class participants to increase their interest in the global warming crisis and understand future directions of environmental policy. If some of you guys are interested in this lecture, please join in this event. Thanks.

If you’d like more concrete information on this lecture, please see this web page: