Environmental Impact Assessment: Theory and Practice

By Peter Wathern | Go to book overview

10

The co-evolution of politics and policy: elections, entrepreneur ship and EIA in the United States

G.WANDESFORDE-SMITH J.KERBAVAZ

Introduction: EIA scholarship transformed

The publication of Making Bureaucracies Think (Taylor 1984) marks a major turning point in the scholarship on environmental impact assessment (EIA). Apart from the early work of Anderson (1973), Andrews (1976), and Liroff (1976), Lynton Caldwell has been almost alone for a decade in arguing persistently that the environmental impact statement process created by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 makes a significant difference in federal agency decision making. As Caldwell is well aware, his arguments are bound to be suspect because he was a principal architect of NEPA. The ambitious, collaborative research programme on the impact of impact assessment, previewed in Caldwell (1982) and subsequently completed with support from the National Science Foundation (Caldwell et al. 1982), was an impressive empirical demonstration of NEPA’s influence. Now there is Taylor who, despite a studied and not altogether charitable indifference to Cald-well’s contributions, provides independent confirmation of the essential facts.

Taylor’s work, however, is part of a broader literature on the nature and consequences of environmental policy instruments employed in the 1960s and 1970s (see, for example, Hawkins 1984, Latin 1985, Ackerman & Stewart 1985, Sproul 1986). From this literature, it is clear that policy instruments can be differentiated according to who is given the opportunity in theory to bargain in the making and implementation of policy. A more important consideration, however, in understanding the way different instruments work in practice is how a combination of resources, political circumstances, and skill in relating the two empowers some to bargain more effectively than others, and thus to shape the evolution of policy. That this combination, which we identify as the product of entrepreneurship, has been the principal factor in the evolution of EIA at the federal level in the United States and in California is the focus of this chapter.

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