The 2017 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum
Since its establishment 46 years ago, the US EPA has had overarching enforcement responsibility for most of the nation’s federal environmental laws. But over the decades, states have developed the expertise and capacity for ensuring environmental protection. With the Trump Administration’s proposed downsizing of EPA budget and staffing and renewed focus on states, decision-makers and stakeholders have a timely opportunity to rethink the paradigm of cooperative federalism and environmental protection in the US.
For decades, EPA has played the role of the “gorilla in the closet,” the looming threat of federal enforcement if regulated entities did not cooperate with state enforcement efforts. But if less federal enforcement is on the horizon, how can environmental compliance be assured? In considering this question, The Environmental Council of States (ECOS) has proposed that a periodic audit system take the place of federal intervention in delegated states. How would an audit system of this kind work in practice, and what are the implications of this kind of change?
Meanwhile, environmental data is being generated at an exponential rate, and other actors, namely local governments and international governing regimes, are increasingly asserting their roles in environmental governance. How will information technology and interconnectivity change environmental enforcement and accountability? How can governments, advocates, and businesses evaluate this information and use it to ensure compliance? What do forces outside the federalism dichotomy mean for the future of environmental governance in a global economy and society unconstrained by state or national borders?
ELI’s expert panel discussed the opportunities and challenges of a new take on cooperative federalism for environmental governance. The conversation considered trends in politics, economics, technology, and other factors influencing environmental protection. Experts participated in a moderated discussion and fielded questions from the audience.
Stan Meiburg, Director of Graduate Programs in Sustainability, Wake Forest University (Moderator)
Barry E. Hill, Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute, and formerly Senior Counsel for Environmental Governance of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs at EPA
Neal Kemkar, Director of Environmental Policy, General Electric
Becky Keogh, Director, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
Bob Martineau, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Vickie Patton, General Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund
Materials of Interest:
ECOS Cooperative Federalism 2.0
Collaborative Federalism (The Environmental Forum, May/June 2016)
View the 2014 ELI-Keare Forum: The Role of State Leadership in Cooperative Federalism