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Conceptual Innovation in Environmental Policy$
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James Meadowcroft and Daniel J. Fiorino

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036580

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036580.001.0001

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Environmental Impact Assessment: Can Procedural Innovation Improve Environmental Outcomes?

Environmental Impact Assessment: Can Procedural Innovation Improve Environmental Outcomes?

(p.77) 4 Environmental Impact Assessment: Can Procedural Innovation Improve Environmental Outcomes?
Conceptual Innovation in Environmental Policy

Richard N. L. Andrews

The MIT Press

Environmental impact assessment originated in U.S. environmental policy as an “action-forcing mechanism” to compel integration of environmental policy goals into government agencies’ missions and actions. It subsequently was adopted by more than 100 other countries, as well as international lending institutions and many businesses, and inspired additional types of impact assessments. At its best, it has greatly expanded the documentation of environmental impacts, required consideration of less damaging alternatives, increased opportunities for review by independent experts and the public, caused modification or cancellation of some proposals, and increased environmental awareness as well as expert capacity for identifying environmental impacts. However, it has often been applied only to localized projects, rather than to broader and more consequential policies and programs, and sometimes without consideration of alternatives. In many cases it has been used simply as a paperwork requirement rather than a decision document. And it has often been criticized, sometimes unfairly, for causing delays and paperwork burdens. Overall, it has proven to be an important conceptual innovation in increasing both awareness of environmental impacts and the transparency of government (and in some cases, business) actions causing them. To fully achieve its intended purpose it requires commitment to that goal by those using it.

Keywords:   environmental impact assessment, environmental assessment, environmental policy, concept of environmental impact assessment

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