Type: Public event

Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation


Vivian E. Thomson, Former Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Politics, University of Virginia

Date & time

Nov 1, 2017, 10:00-11:30 am EDT


Weill Hall, Betty Ford Classroom 1110
735 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Free and open to the public

About the lecture:

Vivian Thomson will offer an insider’s account of how power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level. Drawing on her experience as a former member of Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board, she narrates cases in Alexandria, Wise, and Roda that involved coal and air pollution. She identifies a “climate of capitulation” —a deeply rooted favoritism toward coal and electric utilities in state air pollution policies. Thomson links Virginia’s climate of capitulation with campaign finance patterns, a state legislature that depends on outsiders for information and bill drafting, and a political culture that tends toward inertia. She extends her analysis to fifteen other coal states and recommends reforms aimed at mitigating ingrained biases toward coal and electric utility interests.

Vivian E. Thomson writes and teaches about environmental policy and politics. She joined the University of Virginia faculty in 1997, where she was Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Department of Politics. She directed, and helped to design, the popular, selective BA program in Environmental Thought and Practice. Professor Thomson retired from teaching and program administration in July 2017. Her work is now entirely oriented toward research, guest lectures, and writing.

Professor Thomson’s research, lecturing, and grants have taken her to Denmark, where she was a Fulbright Professor, to Panama, as Director of UVA’s Panama Initiative, to Germany, where she was a DAAD visiting scholar, to Brazil, where she has ongoing collaborations with colleagues at the University of São Paulo and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and to Italy. Her language skills include Brazilian Portuguese, German, and Spanish. Professor Thomson has also worked as a senior policy analyst and manager at the US EPA.

Since 2009 she has published three sole-authored books. The latest is Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (MIT Press, April 2017), a rare policymaker’s inside story that is based in part on Professor Thomson’s many years as member and vice chair of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board. Climate of Capitulation provides insights into the expression of power in state air pollution policymaking, through first person, policy participant case studies and analysis that generalizes those cases to fifteen other states. Readers and reviewers have called Climate of Capitulation a no-holds-barred exposé, a must-read, a page-turner, and insightful, provocative, vivid, and persuasive.

Sponsored by: University of Michigan Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP)
Co-Sponsors: University of Michigan Program in the Environment (PitE); University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS); University of Michigan Environmental Law & Policy Program (ELPP); University of Michigan Energy Institute; University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute

For more information visit www.closup.umich.edu or call 734-647-4091. Follow on Twitter @closup