Environmental Policy Essay Questions

GO 231 Final Exam

Study Questions

Spring 2011

The final exam is on Tuesday, May 11 from 1:30-4:30 pm. You will have three hours to complete the exam, but I hope you can knock it off in two. You may bring in a one-page study sheet. In writing the exam, I first write a list of Key Concepts (see below) that we have covered in lecture and the readings. Then, I try to write essay questions that will enable you to discuss several key concepts in a single answer. The list of reading questions and IDs after the exam questions is useful in formulating your answers to the essay questions. They are “what I am looking for”.


You essay answers will be evaluated based upon 
1. the clarity of your argument;
2. the use of the readings;
3. the creative use of examples from lectures and readings to make your arguments;
4. the clarity of concept definitions.


I. Short Questions:I will select 8 short questions from the readings.  You must answer 4. Each ID is worth 5%.Your answer shoulddefine the term and explain the significance of the concept is for environmental policy.The questions will be inspired by the big 10 themes of the class (see below).


Essay Questions  I will select 2; 22.5% each

  1. How do we regulate industrial water pollution using command and control regulations? How well does it work from an economic, administrative, political, and environmental perspective?


  1. President Obama is committed to an aggressive strategy for addressing climate change.  “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. (Nov 2008)”  Please write a policy memo which assesses the advantages of market based approaches to regulating carbon emissions in general, and the specific environmental, economic, political, technological, international, and administrative advantages of cap and trade versus a carbon tax?


  1. Is Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans an environmental justice issue or not?  What would Bullard and Foreman say?


 III.Final Essay (35%) The Future of the Environmental Movement

James Speth, one of the godfathers of the American environmental movement, writes, “A specter is haunting American environmentalism – the specter of failure.”Please assess Speth’s claim by writing an essay which critically:

a.       Analyzes the environmental movement’ssuccess and failures to assess what it has done right and wrong;

b.      Explains the larger political context,public opinion, and environmental challenges facing the environmental movement;

c.       Identifies and explains the competing political strategies of Speth, the Reapers (Shellenberger and Nordhaus) and Duffy for the environmental movement and critically assesses their political viability and environmental impact.

d.      States your argument for which strategy you believe the environmental movement should follow and why.


Here are the Big 10 Themes from the 2nd half of the class.They are what you should know.

1.       Command and control regulation- the politics, science, administration, economic, and technical aspects of how it works and what the problems are

2.       Permitting- what are the political, economic, administrative, and technical characteristics of the permit process and why do they matter for environmental outcomes

3.       Project XL- why does it sound great in theory for the environment; but not so good in practice?What are the implications for making environmental regulation smarter, cheaper, better?

4.       Cost benefit analysis- what are the advantages and disadvantages of CBA for making environmental policy?

5.       Market Approaches- What is a market approach to reducing pollution, how does it work, and why is it superior in terms of politics, economics, administrative, and technical factors to command and control approaches?

6.       Policy solutions to global warming- how would cap and trade and carbon taxes work?What are the relative advantages and disadvantages in implementation; the economic impact; their political feasibility?

7.       Environmental justice- Do minorities face greater exposure to environmental risk?Why?What are the arguments for differing definitions of discrimination?

8.       Are natural disasters like Katrina environmental justice issues?Why or why not?

9.       Corporate Environmentalism (CE)- What are the advantages and limits of CE?What are some of the key lessons for policy makers?

10.   Environmental Movement- What are its successes and failures?What are the key limits on its effectiveness?What are the alternative strategies or visions for how it should frame issues, form coalitions, and pursue its policies?

IDs/Concepts and Questions

If you only want a 2 page study sheet, look no further.If you want to look at some of the specific ids, concepts, and questions for many of the reading, turn the page.

Command and Control Regulation

1.  How do we regulate Industrial Water pollution using command and control regulations?   What is the role of Congress, the EPA, states, and interest groups in the rule-making process?

2.  How well does it work from an economic, administrative, political, and environmental perspective?

3.  Is command and control a viable strategy for saving the environment? Why or why not?


Key Terms

--complexity, rule-making, abatement costs, compliance, perverse incentives, point and non point sources, publicly owned treatment works, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids, regulatory stringency,


A Political View of Command and Control Regulation 
-Stigler’s theory of regulation; why would firms want to be regulated?

- Terrie Davis, Reforming Permitting--role of permits in command and control regulation, the key characteristics of permitting process, problems with permitting, bargaining, compliance, fragmentation, decentralization, flexibility and power,

- What are the implications for environmental policy?

Solution: Improving Administrative Rationality, Project XL ("Excellence and Leadership")
1. What is the basic premise of Project XL
2. How well has Project XL worked?
3. What are the difficulties in determining “superior environmental performance”

4.  What are the procedural challenges in implementing Project XL?
4. What does Project XL suggest about the long term potential for reinventing the EPA and the potential of trading increased flexibility for superior environmental performance?

You need to know the environmental and procedural details from:
Intel Ocotillo Campus, Chandler, AZ
Weyerhaeuser, Flint River plant
Merck Stonewall Plant, Elkton, VA

--difficulty in shifting from technology based system to a performance based system.



Clean Air and Water Act II: The Revolt Against Command and Control

1. What is cost-benefit analysis? 
2. What are the theoretical arguments for and against cost-benefit analysis?
3. What are the practical difficulties of performing cost-benefit comparisons of environmental regulations? How has the use of cost-benefit analysis changed over time?

4. Does cost-benefit analysis enhance or diminish the quality of environmental policy making?

5. How accurate are the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis? Do they have to be accurate to have a positive impact?

6. How is cost-benefit analysis actually used in setting environmental policy?

7. How can we compare different kinds of costs and benefits, such as lives saved versus ecosystems degraded versus dollars spent?

8. Where are value judgments built into cost-benefits analyses?


What do Coglianese and Marchant believe is wrong with the EPA’s rationale for PM and Ozone standards for NAAQS? Why?

Risk risk analysis, threshold and non-threshhold effects,

Executive Order 12291, Marginal costs, Efficiency, Regulating benzene, GAO study of water pollution, Pollution tax, Marketable or tradable discharge permits, Section 812 Study



9. What is the argument in favor of market incentives instead of direct regulation?

10. What is Goodin’s argument against market incentives for reducing environmental pollution? Should all environmental policies pass an "economic efficiency" test?

11. How does the SO2 cap and trade scheme work? How successful has it been and what are the lessons for other cap and trade schemes such as mercury or carbon emissions?


Cap and Trade, marginal costs, Banking of SO2 emissions, emissions allowances and the hard cap, Setting cap or emission levels and timing, Applicability, Allocation of Allowances

Environmental certainty versus cost certainty, compliance flexibility, point of regulation,


Environmental justice 

What is an environmental injustice? 
Do Minorities really face greater exposure to environmental risks? Do poor and minority populations suffer disproportionately from exposure to toxic materials? 
What are the Causes of Environmental Inequity? Can an injustice simply be a result of "natural processes" (such as land and housing markets) rather than being intentional? 
What does Robert Bullard think the government should do about environmental justice? 
What does Foreman think the government should do about environmental justice? 
How do Bullard and Foreman differ in their definitions of discrimination and equity?


"multiple, cumulative and synergistic risk"

Endocrine Disruptors

Discriminatory intent vs. discriminatory outcome


Environmental Justice Perspective on Natural Disasters

Does race matter when it comes to disaster impact and relief?

Hurricane Katrina as an isolated event?  Is it just President Bush’s fault?

Toxic FEMA trailers, Post Katrina Levee Protection, Lead in Soil, Racial Divide in Disaster Relief, Insurance coverage for rebuilding

Natural disasters as double environmental justice issues


Corporate Environmentalism 
Why do businesses manage pollution/environmental impact beyond existing governmental regulations?

How firms shift to green production?

Do “green” firms do better than their competitors?

Are their economic advantages to being green?

What are the implications for public policy?

What are the advantages of corporate environmentalism? What are its fundamental limits?

Eisner- “genuine regulatory from should reinforce the trend in corporate environmentalism, harness the market and industrial association to achieve superior results by creating a system of government supervised self regulation.”


Design for the environment, Life cycle approaches, Environmental management systems (EMS), 3rd party auditing, American Chemistry Council- Responsible Care versus Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Life Cycle analysis on Yukon and Sierra


Examining The Modern Environmental Movement

Foreman, Bosso, Dowie, Duffy, Shellenberger and Nordhaus

What are the key tenets of deep ecology and the key political principles of the Earth First Movement? Do they represent a viable theoretical or political strategy for the environmental movement?

What does Dowie believe is wrong with the national environmental groups? Why does he believe local grassroots initiatives like those related to environmental justice movement are more effective

What is the central challenge for environmental movements according to Bosso? How does the salience trap and the new political landscape for environmental groups shape their strategic choices?

What would Bosso say to radicals who say the mainstream environmental groups are addicted to direct mail, being respectable, and incremental legislative politics?

What is the Reapers (Shellenberger and Nordhaus) critique of the environmental movement? How would they define environmentalism? What does the fight for CAFÉ standards represent what is wrong with the mainstream environmental movement? Why do they believe their solution, the Apollo Project, represents a superior political and environmental alternative?

What is Duffy’s implicit critique of what the environmental movement has done wrong? What does Duffy believe environmental groups should do instead? Do environmental groups risk losing their “special status” by playing politics?

Who should environmental groups seek to build coalitions with? What should their message be? How political should environmental groups be?

Capacity Building Programs

Biodiversity Project

Environmental Leadership Institute

Email Action Alert Systems

List Enhancement Projects


Audience Driven Communication strategies

League of Conservation Voters’ political strategy?

Group of 10
the New Political landscape
“sue the bastards” strategy
National environmental groups use of direct mail fundraising 
influence of foundations
Louis Biggs & Citizens Clearing House for Hazardous waste
Plug the toilet 
Environmental justice movement

The Apollo Project; Café Standards, Environmentalism as if Politics didn’t matter,

“emerging environmental tragedy of unprecedented proportions.”

Speth- Focus on Technical Policy Fixes, Not politics; Emphasis on being pragmatic and incrementalist; promoting major lifestyle changes and challenging the materialistic values that dominate our society; challenge corporate power, writing a new American story,

Framing, Mobilization, Tactics


Essays on Environmental Economics and Policy

William Reed Walker

Essays on Environmental Economics and Policy
Walker, William Reed
Thesis Advisor(s):
Schlenker, Wolfram
Ph.D., Columbia University
Persistent URL:
A central feature of modern government is its role in designing welfare improving policies to address and correct market failures stemming from externalities and public goods. The rationale for most modern environmental regulations stems from the failure of markets to efficiently allocate goods and services. Yet, as with any policy, distributional effects are important there exist clear winners and losers. Despite the clear theoretical justification for environmental and energy policy, empirical work credibly identifying both the source and consequences of these externalities as well as the distributional effects of existing policies remains in its infancy. My dissertation focuses on the development of empirical methods to investigate the role of environmental and energy policy in addressing market failures as well as exploring the distributional implications of these policies. These questions are important not only as a justification for government intervention into markets but also for understanding how distributional consequences may shape the design and implementation of these policies. My dissertation investigates these questions in the context of programs and policies that are important in their own right. Chapters 1 and 2 of my dissertation explore the economic costs and distributional implications associated with the largest environmental regulatory pro- gram in the United States, the Clean Air Act. Chapters 3 and 4 examine the social costs of air pollution in the context of transportation externalities, showing how effective transportation policy has additional co-benefits in the form of environmental policy. My dissertation remains unified in both its subject matter and methodological approach - using unique sources of data and sound research designs to understand important issues in environmental policy.
Educational sociology
Education--Sociological aspects
Item views
text | xml
Suggested Citation:
William Reed Walker, 2012, Essays on Environmental Economics and Policy, Columbia University Academic Commons, https://doi.org/10.7916/D8NS121H.
Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Environmental Policy Essay Questions”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *