Panel: Data and Local and Regional Environmental Policy Decisions: The Influence of Institutional Factors
(Natural Resource Security, Energy and Environmental Policy)

Saturday, November 4, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
San Francisco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Esther Conrad, Stanford University
Panel Chairs:  Aaron M. Deslatte, Northern Illinois University
Discussants:  William Blomquist, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Putting Adaptive Management into Practice: Incorporating Metrics and Action Triggers into Sustainable Groundwater Management
Esther Conrad, Tara Moran, Ilana Crankshaw, Janet Martinez and Leon Szeptycki, Stanford University

What Determines Where Public Goods Funding Goes? Regional Governance and The Role of Institutional Rules and Power
Brian Yeokwang An, University of Southern California and Raphael Bostic, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Local and regional government agencies play a critical role in managing natural resources to provide essential services, such as water delivery, flood protection, and transportation. Natural systems are complex and variable, and their effective management requires integration of diverse types of data and knowledge, as well as the flexibility to update decisions as conditions change. However, policy choices are not always guided by data and the analysis of risks and needs; institutional factors often steer decision-making in different directions. What are these institutional factors, and what specific roles do they play in determining how data is used in decision-making? How can local and regional-level institutions and policies be best designed to encourage the effective use of data and current scientific knowledge?

This panel will explore these questions in diverse settings at local and regional levels across the United States. Two papers highlight examples of local-level governance, including managing groundwater in California and floods in New England. The first paper assesses how quantitative metrics have been developed and used to guide decision-making about groundwater management within special districts during California’s recent drought, and explores how appropriate policy design and adequate capacity play a role in supporting their use. The second paper analyzes how municipalities in New England make choices about approaches to flood mitigation, and assesses the institutional structure, science, and external policies in determining whether structural or non-structural flood mitigation is used. The next two papers address regional-level governing arrangements in which multiple local entities seek to cooperate to address common problems. In the context of urban transportation in Texas, the third paper examines how the balance of voting power on metropolitan planning organizations affects the distribution of transportation funds, as compared to determinants of need such as demographics and road conditions. The final paper focuses on an intergovernmental agreement to manage the New York City watershed, and explores institutional characteristics that may contribute to cooperative behavior and the creation of information-rich environments for decision-making. The four papers utilize diverse methods, including comparative case studies based on document analysis and interviews, the analysis of fine-grained institutional data, and statistical analysis of large and novel datasets.

These papers highlight a number of critical questions and themes related to the theme of this year’s conference. Do institutional characteristics play a different role in policy choice and resource distribution in agencies operating at local versus regional scales? What is the potential role of state or regional level entities in shaping and supporting the use of data at the local level? How does capacity, both technical and financial, affect the use of data in decision-making in different settings? How does the role of data in policy processes differ in the context of droughts versus floods? These and other questions will be explored by the discussant and audience participation.