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Punctuated Equilibrium and the Dynamics of U.S. Environmental Policy

Punctuated Equilibrium and the Dynamics of U.S. Environmental Policy

Edited by Robert Repetto
Foreword by James Gustave Speth
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Punctuated Equilibrium and the Dynamics of U.S. Environmental Policy
    Book Description:

    Although many environmental policy issues remain deadlocked for decades with little movement, sometimes breakthroughs occur abruptly. Why do deadlocks persist? Why do major policy shifts occur infrequently? Is it possible to judge when policies are ripe for change?

    This book presents new empirical evidence that the punctuated equilibrium theory of policy dynamics fits the facts of environmental policy change and can explain how stable policies can suddenly unravel in discontinuous change. The distinguished contributors to the volume apply the theory to a wide range of important environmental and resource issues and assess case histories in water, forestry, fisheries, public lands, energy and climate some of which resulted in breakthroughs, others in stalemate. They offer insights into the political conditions and tactics that are likely to produce these disparate outcomes. Every professional, activist, and student concerned with promoting (or resisting) change in environmental and natural resources policies will find this up-to-date book an invaluable guide.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12974-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    James Gustave Speth

    This book grew out of conversations between Robert Repetto and myself regarding the failure of U.S. politics to come to grips with such global-scale environmental threats as climate change. In my book about these threats,Red Sky at Morning,I quoted extensively from Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones’sAgendas and Instability in American Politicsbecause they had given genuine analytical rigor to the impression we all have that policy progress is made not steadily but, as Repetto puts it, in fi ts and starts. If Baumgartner and Jones were right, their thesis offered hope that today’s bleak political prospects for...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)
    Robert Repetto

    Nineteen-seventy saw the American environmental movement blossom. The first Earth Day brought millions of Americans outdoors to demonstrate support for environmental protection and resource conservation, a massive outpouring that surprised not only the Nixon administration and the Congress but also the corporate world and the old-line conservation organizations (Shabecoff 2003). The Environmental Protection Agency was created that year, bringing together many agencies and programs previously scattered around the executive branch. The Council on Environmental Quality was set up as a White House staff body to inform and coordinate environmental policy. Also in 1970, the enormously important National Environmental Policy Act...

  6. Chapter 2 Punctuated Equilibrium Theory and Environmental Policy
    (pp. 24-46)
    Frank R. Baumgartner

    The environmental policy arena, like other areas of public policy, shows consistent patterns of stability and change driven by the dynamics of the policy process. New problems emerge, social movements form and mobilize, elections intervene, new scientific evidence accumulates, policy images change over time, institutions compete over jurisdictional control, and crises occasionally create the opportunity for dramatic new initiatives to take hold. For most issues most of the time, however, stable institutional structures, shared understandings of policy goals and available technologies, and a balance of power among interests ensure no dramatic shifts from the status quo. In this manner, environmental...

  7. Chapter 3 Tipping Points, Abrupt Opinion Changes, and Punctuated Policy Change
    (pp. 47-77)
    William A. Brock

    Why is the political system sometimes so sluggish in dealing with environmental problems and at other times capable of very rapid responses? Why is the political system sometimes so slow when the capitalist system is so nimble? No one doubts that the creative dynamism of capitalism has benefited us tremendously, but growth and the continual introduction of new technologies rapidly increase the number and magnitude of negative externality problems that governments must control. Governments seem to be losing the race to create effective institutions to do this job. It is easy to find current symbols of this mismatch: (1) SUVs...

  8. Chapter 4 Path Dependency and Adroit Innovation: The Case of California Water
    (pp. 78-109)
    Helen Ingram and Leah Fraser

    Water problems are today so serious and so generally evident that the issue should claim a prominent place on the national agenda and command dramatic policy change. Severe droughts have disrupted water supplies in many parts of the country in recent years. Besides such extreme events, growing demands for water press close upon supplies over wide areas of the country and the long-term sufficiency of this critical resource is uncertain. Moreover, water pollution including heightened levels of organics, toxics, and salinity, from a whole variety of sources, is worsening. Protection of aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife is increasingly difficult....

  9. Chapter 5 On Social Traps and Lobster Traps: Choppy Waters on the Voyage Toward Fisheries’ Harvesting Rights
    (pp. 110-136)
    Robert Repetto and Richard B. Allen

    This chapter examines the halting progress in U.S. fisheries management toward the establishment of secure harvesting rights in marine fisheries through the establishment of Individual Transferable Quota regimes. After the adoption of ITQ regimes in a few fisheries, Congress imposed a moratorium in 1996 to block the development or approval of any more such systems in other fisheries under federal jurisdiction. This moratorium was twice extended and allowed to expire only in 2002. The imposition, extension, and ultimate removal after a six-year brake on policy development constitutes a policy history that illustrates the punctuated equilibrium policy behavior investigated in this...

  10. Chapter 6 Behavioral Thresholds and Institutional Rigidities as Explanations of Punctuated Equilibrium Processes in Pacific Northwest Forest Policy Dynamics
    (pp. 137-161)
    Benjamin Cashore and Michael Howlett

    Few policy problems have captured more attention from environmental groups, business interests, governments, and scientists than the environmental condition of forestlands in the United States Pacific Northwest. For more than a generation, natural scientists have documented significant and complex human impacts on the natural forest environment: the extensive decline in late succession (old growth) forests (Franklin 1988) and ecologically sensitive riparian areas (Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team 1999) and the increasing number of threatened and endangered species (Yafee 1994), all of which indicated considerable stress in forest ecosystems (Kohm and Franklin 1997; Franklin 1993). These problems have led to societal unrest,...

  11. Chapter 7 The Political Economy of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Controls
    (pp. 162-196)
    Lee Lane

    This chapter assesses the prospects for implementing greenhouse gas controls in the United States. One basic fact frames the analysis: namely, controls stringent enough to stop global climate change would cost more than the damage expected from climate change. Although a modest level of emission control could yield more benefits than costs, even modest controls face formidable political challenges. The opponents of emission controls hold great organizational advantages over the proponents. To be sure, a strong surge of public sentiment might politically overwhelm all these objections and barriers but public support for emission controls is too tepid for that to...

  12. Chapter 8 Automobile Fuel Efficiency Policy: Beyond the CAFE Controversy
    (pp. 197-231)
    James A. Dunn Jr.

    Since 1975 the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have been the centerpiece of the federal government’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency of passenger motor vehicles. CAFE’s supporters maintain that it has been the nation’s single most successful policy effort to save petroleum (Greene, Sperling, and McNutt 1998, 216). They argue that the fuel efficiency requirements should be increased substantially and that imperfections like the “SUV loophole” should be eliminated. CAFE’s opponents denounce it as largely ineffective, a costly burden on the auto industry, an interference with consumers’ freedom of choice, and a safety threat to automobile drivers and...

  13. Chapter 9 The Politics of Grazing on Federal Lands: A Policy Change Perspective
    (pp. 232-252)
    Charles Davis

    Analyzing change in public land programs that have historically been dominated by sub-governments offers a challenging task for students of American public policy. Sub-governments (also known as subsystems, policy whirlpools, or iron triangles) tend to limit participation in policy decisions to public agency administrators, legislators, and interest group representatives with shared programmatic concerns, a low degree of visibility within the media and the general public, and a high degree of stability over time (Griffith 1939; Maas 1949; Freeman 1965; Cater 1964). Such governance systems exemplify distributive policymaking, in which benefits are provided for a relatively small number of individuals or...

  14. References
    (pp. 253-274)
  15. List of Contributors
    (pp. 275-278)
  16. Index
    (pp. 279-292)