The American system of federalism and interest group pluralism often creates difficulties when it comes to local implementation of national environmental policies. Regulators must operate within the context of multiple political jurisdictions and are subject to public criticism, political end runs, and litigation at any one of many different points (Berry, 1989; Rosenbaum, 1995). Incorporating the concerns of private interests into policy implementation is made more difficult by the fact that there are no "official" representatives for private interests. Rather, private individuals and institutions may form any number of combinations that compete with each other for influence.
The combination of federalism and interest group pluralism causes particularly difficult problems for hazardous waste siting and cleanup decisions. The environmental organizations that are involved most directly in national policymaking have relatively little to do with local hazardous waste politics. Regulators at the local level must deal with local groups that have little incentive to consider interests beyond the borders of their own community. The number of local groups and the intensity of feeling have increased in recent years, in response to perceived injustices in past siting and cleanup decisions.
Both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have begun to encourage the formation of citizen advisory boards at hazardous waste cleanup sites (United States Department of Energy, 1994; United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1995, 1996). These boards provide increased opportunities for participation by individuals, community groups, and state and local government officials in remedial cleanup actions. Although this approach may lead to improved communication between regulators and local stakeholders, site-specific boards do not enhance incentives to consider the interests of other communities. Moreover, although some of the impetus for the EPA's program comes from the environmental justice movement, the slim evidence to date suggests that boards are most likely to form at Superfund sites in middle-class communities where public participation already exists (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1996). Thus, the boards appear to provide a more structured forum for participation by those who already have achieved some level of organization, rather than a means of incorporating interests that previously have lacked a voice in local decisionmaking.
I will discuss first the "demand" side of hazardous waste politics, identifying differences between national and local environmental groups and the reasons why cooperation among them is limited. I then will turn to the "supply" side, focusing mostly on the recent use of site-specific citizen advisory boards for cleanup decisions at Superfund sites and facilities managed by the DOE. Finally, I will summarize the reasons why this approach may not be a sufficient remedy for the fractured politics that surround local hazardous waste siting and cleanup decisions.
The Demand Side: Interest Group Pluralism and Fractured Advocacy
Limited Involvement by National Environmental Groups
Historically, the environmental organizations that are most active in trying to influence national policy - groups such as the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, and the Environmental Defense Fund - have not focused much of their efforts on local hazardous waste issues. The oldest of these organizations began as clubs of outdoor enthusiasts, and only became politicized in the 1950s and 1960s by proposals to construct dams in scenic areas of the West. The newer organizations were founded in the 1960s and 1970s, as pollution issues became more prominent, wealthy patrons such as the Ford Foundation began funding work on environmental issues, and direct mail became available as a tool for recruiting mass memberships (Bosso, 1994; Mitchell, 1989). These newer groups often lack any sort of local organization, save for a few regional offices in major cities.
While national environmental groups have supported strong federal hazardous waste laws through lobbying (Bosso, 1994; Rosenbaum, 1995) and litigation (Environmental Defense Fund v. Gorsuch, 1983), their involvement in local siting and cleanup decisions has been limited. Local, "grass-roots" advocacy on hazardous waste issues tends to be led by activists such as Lois Gibbs, a homemaker with no previous experience in politics who lobbied for relocation assistance for residents of the Love Canal dump site (Foreman, 1995). Gibbs went on to found the Citizens' Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes (now known as the CCHW Center for Health, Environment, and Justice) to provide information and assistance to local groups across the country. She has little use for mainstream environmental groups and even proclaims herself an "anti-environmentalist" (Ingram, Colnic, & Mann, 1995, p. 127).
Divisions between national groups and local environmental activists came to a head in 1990, when a New Mexico group known as the Southwest Organizing Project sent a letter to 10 national organizations accusing them of discriminatory hiring practices and of ignoring the environmental concerns of Blacks and Hispanics. The letter followed unsuccessful efforts to obtain technical assistance from the national groups on issues concerning chemical wastes in the Rio Grande Valley (Ingram et al., 1995; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1995). Several national groups responded by hiring more minorities and seeking to provide some assistance to local groups.
There are inherent limits, however, to the extent to which national groups can deviate from their traditional agendas and constituencies. All of these groups are organized as nonprofit corporations that rely heavily on voluntary donations or membership dues (Bosso, 1994; Lowry, 1997; Mitchell, 1989). Their financial solvency depends on their ability to convince supporters to donate money or time without any explicit quid pro quo, and despite the temptation to free ride on the contributions of others. To continue to attract donations, these groups must prove themselves worthy of their donors' trust by pursuing a clearly defined agenda and …