Type: Public event

Using information disclosure to achieve policy goals: How experience with the Toxics Release Inventory can inform action on shale gas fracking

Date & time

Dec 4, 2013, 10:00-11:30 am EST


Weill Hall

****Watch the video**** Free and open to the public. Abstract The federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is the premier national example of a non-regulatory environmental policy, and it illustrates well both the potential and limitations of using information disclosure to achieve policy goals. The TRI was adopted in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Superfund law, and since 1988 we have had annual reports on the release of over 650 toxic chemicals by some 20,000 industrial facilities around the nation. By most accounts, the disclosure of this information has had a remarkable impact on environmental performance of industry, with over a 60 percent decrease over time in the release of toxic chemicals by those facilities governed by the law. However, in our book Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance (MIT Press 2011, written with Mark Stephan and Troy D. Abel), we found that facility performance varied widely, with some facilities significantly decreasing their release of chemicals and also the risk associated with chemical releases while others moved in the opposite direction. We sought to learn more about the potential for reliance on information disclosure as a policy strategy and also its limitations. This presentation summarizes the findings of Coming Clean, and applies the lessons of the TRI program to the emerging concern over shale gas fracking. How might the disclosure of information about use of chemicals during the fracking process and their health and environmental risks alert the public and policymakers to important aspects of the process and guide development of local, state, and federal policy on fracking? What is the best way to design such an information disclosure policy so that it can succeed in educating the public about those risks while not imposing excessive or unreasonable burdens on industry? Panel Speakers: Michael E. Kraft, Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Christopher Borick, Director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion Moderator: Barry Rabe, Director, Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) See the presentations from the event:

About the presenters:

Michael Kraft

Michael E. Kraft is Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs Emeritus and Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Environmental Studies Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of California, Riverside, and he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Yale University. From 1977 to 2013 he taught at UW-Green Bay, where he offered courses on environmental politics and policy, public policy analysis, Congress, and environmental science and policy. He continues to teach part time in a new online Sustainable Management master's program in the UW System. He also has held visiting faculty appointments at Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among other works, he is author of Environmental Policy and Politics (6th ed., Pearson Longman in press for 2014 release); co-author of Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance (MIT Press 2011), co-author of Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (CQ Press, 4th edition, 2013); and co-editor and contributing author of Environmental Policy (CQ Press, 8th ed., 2013); The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental Policy (2013); Business and Environmental Policy (MIT Press, 2007); Toward Sustainable Communities: Transition and Transformations in Environmental Policy (MIT Press, 2nd ed. 2009); and Public Reactions to Nuclear Waste: Citizens' Views of Repository Siting (Duke University Press, 1993). He also serves as co-editor (with Sheldon Kamieniecki) of a book series, American and Comparative Environmental Policy, at MIT Press.

Christopher P. Borick

Kraft's research interests focus on U.S. environmental policy and politics, and his most recent project dealt with the impact of information disclosure programs on corporate environmental performance in the United States. It used the federal Toxics Release Inventory program to examine trends in toxic chemical releases and risk reduction at some 10,000 industrial facilities nationwide and the reasons for variation among firms, communities, and states. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and was the focus of the book, Coming Clean, co-authored with Mark Stephan and Troy Abel; the book won the 2012 Lynton K. Caldwell Award from the American Political Science Association. Christopher P. Borick is a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. Borick is the co-director of the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, conducted in collaboration with the Ford School. He is a nationally recognized public opinion researcher who has conducted over 250 large-scale public opinion surveys during the past fifteen years. The results of these surveys have appeared in numerous periodicals including Time Magazine, The Wall St Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. He has also provided analysis for the BBC, National Public Radio, PBS, CBS News and NBC Nightly News and had his survey results aired on CNN, FOX News and C-Span. Borick has published and presented over thirty articles and four books in the area of public policy and public opinion. He has won numerous teaching awards during his career, most recently receiving The Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award at Muhlenberg College in 2006.

Barry Rabe

Barry Rabe is Director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), and the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy in the Ford School and is also an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. He is also a non-resident senior fellow in the Governance Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Rabe has received three research awards from the American Political Science Association, including the 2007 Daniel Elazar Award for Career Contributions to the Study of Federalism. Rabe recently served on the National Research Council Committee on Risk Management and Governance Issues in Shale Gas Development.