Thomas H. Koenig
Daniel R. Faber, Lee P. Breckenridge
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Law, Policy, and Society Program.
Environmental regulation, Environmental justice, Political science
Environmental policy--Citizen participation, Environmental policy--Evaluation, Environmental justice--Social aspects
Law and Society
Environmental regulation incorporates public participation to a higher degree than other areas of social regulation. Participants in these processes assume that their participation can influence the decisions that are made. The goal of this study was to understand how public participation influences the decisions made by in the environmental review process in Massachusetts. It is animated by concerns about the role that regulatory agency decisions have in creating or reinforcing environmental injustices. The traditional explanations for environmental injustice are environmental racism or agency capture. These explanations, however, do not account for pro-business decisions that are not the result of racism or corruption. Literature in social psychology, social theory, and game theory provide support for a new explanation: agency empathy. Agency empathy is an attitude held by regulatory agency staff in which they identify with and develop empathy for the situation, needs, feelings, and motives of the individuals with whom they come into contact. In this dissertation I analyze how the statutes, regulations, and policies structure participation in the environmental review process. In addition, I explore the differences in the type and level of participation among stakeholders in two power plant proposals in different communities in Massachusetts. The legal review shows that the law does create the conditions for pro-proponent empathy. In the cases studies, I found that agencies do begin from a default of position of pro-proponent empathy. However, depending on the proponent's level of cooperation, proponents can either maintain or lose that empathy. I also found evidence that potential host communities can influence the decisions made in the review process and disrupt the default pattern of pro-proponent empathy. Interestingly, a community's racial composition does not seem to be as important as previous research suggests. Community influence depends on effective participation in the review process, assistance by experienced professional organizations, and community consensus. The disposition of participating stakeholders appears to be an important aspect of influence in the environmental review process. Based on these findings, I make recommendations for agencies, proponents, community residents, and professional organizations to reduce the potential for biased decision-making, improve public participation, and support environmental justice.
Estrella-Luna, Neenah, "Environmental review in Massachusetts: the relationships, the decisions, and the law" (2009). Law, Policy, and Society Dissertations. Paper 2. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d10018232
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