Environmental Politics and Policy

The "Politics" Paper

Administrative Details: 6-8 pages, double sided, stapled, MLA citation format, title page

Outsiders are discouraged from viewing lawmaking and sausage-making too closely. Throwing caution to the wind, the purpose of this paper is to understand how our political system really works through an intensive study of how an environmental issue made it onto the public agenda and how it was addressed through the political process. You will write a legislative and political analysis of a single piece of legislation that addresses the following issues:

Argument/Thesis - The assignment is to write a critical analysis of how your environmental piece of legislation became a law. How did the political process affect the environmental effectiveness or your legislation?


1. The Political window- How did the environmental issue get on the national agenda? Why did the policy window open?
a. What combination of elections or focusing events helped bring the issue to the decisional agenda?
b. Why did policy-makers decide to address the issue then, as opposed to at other times?
c. Who were the key policy entrepreneurs, what were their motivations, and how did they couple the problem, policy, and politics?

2. The Policy Stream- how was the condition/problem redefined or socially constructed?
a. What were the key reports, hearings, meetings, books or ideas that redefined the problem?
b. How did they define the cause of the problem in contrast to previously? How long had these ideas been kicking around?
c. What were the “lessons learned” about what worked and what didn’t? How did previous policies constrain or shape your legislation?
d. How did entrepreneurs marshal evidence as to the complexity, seriousness, and cost of addressing the problem?
e. How did this evidence or findings shape decision-makers’ understanding of the problem, policy options, and relative benefits of action or inaction?
f. How did these ideas advance the political prospects of legislation? How did they either undermine or enhance the prospects for solving the environmental problem? What policies were NOT on serious considered? Why?

3. Policy
a. What were the main goals of the proposed legislation? How did it change the status quo (or not)? How did Congress intend to achieve its purpose? What authority did Congress delegate? What money did Congress appropriate? What powers did the legislation give and to whom?
b. What were the main sources of agreement and disagreement about the proposed legislation? Why were key provisions controversial or not? What were they fighting about? If appropriate, what weren’t they fighting about?

4. Political Process-how a bill became a law- this will vary-
a. Your goal is to explain and critically analyze how the goals and design of the legislation changed as it winded through the political process. Who won and lost these battles and why?
i. Interests- Analyze who supported and opposed the overall legislation and the changes. Why did they support or oppose the legislation? Which interest groups (be specific, use proper names!) were involved in lobbying on the legislation? How did they seek to define the problem and policy alternatives? How did they seek to persuade decision-makers, what strategies did they use, and how successful were they and why? How was the political coalition behind the legislation created and how did it prevail?
ii. Which political institutions and individuals supported which interests? What were their motivations for involvement? What were their sources of power and how did they use them to affect the legislation? Please make sure to include proper names and motivations (i.e. Subcommittee Chair Waxman …). Where did the main political battles take place (Subcommittees, Committees, Floor, Senate, House, Conference Committees, behind closed doors)? Who won or lost at which stage and why? How did these political actors affect goals and design.
iii. What role, if any, did the public play in the process? How salient was the issue with the public and how did it affect interest groups strategies or the actions of political interests?

5. Conclusion: Analyze how the bargaining and compromises behind the law affected its priorities and ultimate effectiveness? What was “left-out” or included to ensure the passage of the legislation and how did it affect the ultimate success of the legislation? Did the final product reflect the original intent of the legislation? Did the political process “work”?