COMMONS IGNORANCE: THE FAILURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW TO PROVIDE THE INFORMATION NEEDED TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
by Wendy Wagner (Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor University of Texas School of Law)
One of the most significant problems facing environmental law is the dearth of scientific information available to assess the impact of industrial activities on public health and the environment. After documenting the significant gaps in existing information, this book argues that existing laws both exacerbate and perpetuate this problem.
By failing to require actors to assess the potential harm from their activities, and by penalizing them with additional regulation when they do, existing laws fail to counteract actors' natural inclination to remain silent about the harms that they might be causing. Both theory and practice confirm that when the stakes are high, actors not only will resist producing potentially incriminating information but will invest in discrediting public research that suggests their activities are harmful.
The book concludes with specific recommendations about how these perverse incentives for ignorance can be reversed.
Professor Wendy Wagner (Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor University of Texas School of Law) is a leading authority on the use of science by environmental policy-makers. She received a Masters of Environmental Studies in 1984 and her law degree in 1987, both from Yale, where she was Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal and Managing Editor of the Yale Journal of Regulation. Before entering teaching, she practiced for four years, first as an Honors Attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, and then as Pollution Control Coordinator with the Department of Agriculture's Office of the General Counsel.
Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Texas, Professor Wagner taught at Case Western Law School, where she established herself as a prolific scholar. Among her many articles, "The Science Charade in Toxic Risk Regulation" (Columbia Law Review, 1995) was chosen as one of the best environmental law articles of the year and reprinted in the Land Use and Environmental Law Review. Professor Wagner was also a visiting professor at Columbia and Vanderbilt Law Schools.
She currently serves on the National Research Councilâ€™s Committee on the Selection and Use of Models in the Regulatory Decision Process and on the Council of the Administrative and Regulatory Law Section of the American Bar Association. Professor Wagner is also a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform.