Opportunities and Challenges in Effective Implementation of Environmental Regulations
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The effectiveness and impacts of environmental regulation are dependent not just upon ex ante policy design and standards but also on management and implementation decisions made by program officers, street level bureaucrats, and other administrators. This panel considers four different cases of environmental regulation to address when and how implementation decisions made by public managers and regulators shape policy outputs and outcomes.
Paper one examines wildlife mitigation plans for oil and gas (O&G) leasing required under the US Endangered Species Act and state-level protection rules. The authors combine geospatial modeling with computational text analysis to test how co-production strategies influence species and habitat protections adopted in mitigation plans. First, a spatio-temporal model predicts adoption of state or federal protection to control for O&G site selection. Second, the authors use supervised machine learning to quantify species- and habitat-related text in permitting documents. Third, species considerations adopted in mitigation plans are regressed on the use of co-production, private contractors, and public monitoring programs. The results inform how different implementation strategies mitigation plan focus and stringency.
Paper two focuses on implementation effectiveness in multilevel regulation where a state authority requires local regions to develop individualized monitoring and compliance regimes. California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 mandates that local regions create groundwater management agencies and develop standards to combat groundwater overdraft. Local areas differ considerably in technical and institutional capacity, which affects how local managers and other stakeholders respond to SGMA requirements. Using a novel statewide survey of local agency managers and detailed follow-up interviews, this paper shows how local capacity shapes response to a regulatory mandate and high-level regulatory interventions interact with local problem solving efforts.
The third paper evaluates the role and impacts of boilerplate language in Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) produced under the National Environmental Policy Act. EIS documents review the potential impacts of a project, and evaluate how these impacts change under different construction and implementation alternatives. While boilerplate--standardized, repeated blocks of text with minor modifications--can expedite impact assessment and drafting, it makes documents less comprehensible and hinders the public review process. Drawing on a dataset of EIS documents issued nationwide since 2010, the paper uses computational text analysis to segment documents and identify highly similar text. Results are used to analyze differences in boilerplate usage by agency, project type, location, and contractor involvement.
The fourth paper disentangles the impact of neighbor, peer, and leader effects on local unconventional oil and gas (O&G) regulations. Using a novel database of municipal codes concerning unconventional O&G regulations, the authors use automated content analysis to identify and extract key regulatory features such as siting restrictions and permitting processes. These features are compiled into dyadic measures of regulatory similarity between all possible pairs of municipalities. Dyadic similarity scores are regressed on socio-economic indicators and context variables representing neighbor effects, isomorphic and normative peer effects, and leader effects. A quadratic assignment model is used to evaluate how neighbor, peer, and leader effects spur policy convergence, enabling a multifaceted test of regulatory diffusion mechanisms.
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