A Civic Republican Perspective on the National Environmental Police Act's Process for Citizen Participation

By Poisner, Jonathan | Environmental Law, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

A Civic Republican Perspective on the National Environmental Police Act's Process for Citizen Participation


Poisner, Jonathan, Environmental Law


I. INTRODUCTION

For the last twenty-five years, the United States has conducted a grand experiment in democracy. The administrative agencies of the executive branch of the federal government have opened their decision-making processes to unparalleled levels of citizen input and scrutiny. Environmental statutes have led this massive attempt to allow and encourage citizen participation.(1) Virtually every federal environmental law passed in the 1970s contains significant provisions for citizen participation in the decision making of implementing agencies.(2)

This experiment in democracy does not fit well with a civics textbook understanding of American government.(3) Citizen involvement has traditionally focused on the legislative branch, through periodic elections, not the executive branch.(4) The precise role for citizens in the execution of the law remains unclear. Two decades of practice have, to be sure, firmly embedded in the American psyche the notion that people have a "right" to participate when execution of the law affects them.(5) Nevertheless, the purpose of that participation remains vague, at best. Administrators must listen to citizens. But what are they to do with the information they hear?

The time seems ripe for an evaluation of this experiment in citizen participation. Sufficient time has passed that one can no longer argue that it is too early in the experiment to conduct a meaningful evaluation. In addition, public confidence in the administration of government appears to have gone down, not up, during this period. If so, this trend suggests that one touted purpose of citizen participation, greater confidence in government,(6) has not been achieved.(7)

In evaluating this experiment, this Article focuses upon whether existing modes of citizen participation encourage deliberation in decision making. Calls for a more deliberative democracy have become quite commonplace.(8) According to proponents of deliberation, the long-term health of American democracy depends on certain forms of discussion.(9) The purposes of deliberation include the creation and implementation of the common good of the community and the inculcation of civic virtue in the participants.(10)

In examining whether the current form of citizen participation in environmental decision making encourages deliberation, this Article evaluates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).(11) NEPA provides an appropriate focus for several reasons. First, citizen participation in the creation of NEPA-mandated Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) has, in all likelihood, spawned the largest amount of citizen participation in environmental decision making over the last two decades.(12) Second, many have often touted NEPA as a model of how federal environmental laws allow for useful citizen input, leading many states to adopt so-called "baby-NEPAs" governing state action.(13)

Part II introduces the deliberative ideal of democracy, discussing its theoretical justifications and comparing it to two alternative understandings of decision making: synopticism and pluralism. Based on the justifications for a deliberative approach to democracy, this part develops criteria to judge whether a citizen participation program is deliberative.

Parts III and IV examine the evolution of citizen participation under NEPA. Part III discusses the Act itself, along with implementing regulations adopted in 1973 and 1978. Part IV examines the cultural paradigms under which NEPA public participation has developed. Further, Part IV tells the two dominant "stories" of NEPA, each based on its respective belief in either synopticism or pluralism as the appropriate mode of collective decision making about environmental issues.

Part V evaluates NEPA's citizen participation process in light of the criteria developed in Part II, concluding that NEPA fails as a means for encouraging deliberative democracy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Civic Republican Perspective on the National Environmental Police Act's Process for Citizen Participation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.