Officious Intermeddlers or Citizen Experts? Petitions and Public Production of Information in Environmental Law
69 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2009 Last revised: 10 Mar 2010
Commentators have bemoaned the role that petitions and citizen suits play in driving the regulatory agendas for environmental agencies. The argument is that these forms of public participation frequently distract agencies from the priorities that experts believe should be the focus of regulatory efforts. Using data from the listing of species for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, we examine whether petitions and citizen suits result in suboptimal agenda setting by agencies. We find that petitions and litigation result in the identification of species that are at least as deserving of protection under the Act as the species identified by the agency. Our results raise the possibility that public participation, by collecting diffuse information about environmental conditions, might help improve the performance of environmental agencies.
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