Human Rights and Environmental Regulation

53 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2011

See all articles by Rebecca M. Bratspies

Rebecca M. Bratspies

City University of New York - School of Law

Date Written: June 9, 2011


This article suggests that were federal environmental regulators to view themselves as human rights decisionmakers, we might well see a new kind of regulatory decisionmaking emerge — one not only more responsive and transparent, but also more likely to enjoy the trust of the American public. Drawing from the BP Oil Spill and the United States regulatory response to climate change, this article shows how human rights norms might enrich domestic regulatory processes and help environmental regulators implement their statutory mission of protecting the public welfare. It demonstrates how interpreting domestic legal obligations through the lens of human rights would enhance a commitment to participation, fairness and accountability, thereby making the domestic regulatory process not only better and fairer, but also more likely to be perceived as legitimate by the general public. The article concludes by pointing out some key obstacles facing the human rights approach for achieving environmental ends.

Keywords: human rights, environment, climate change, BP oil spill, transparency, regulation, participation, new governance, future generations, accountability, trust

JEL Classification: H11, K19, K20, K23, K32

Suggested Citation

Bratspies, Rebecca M., Human Rights and Environmental Regulation (June 9, 2011). NYU Environmental Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Rebecca M. Bratspies (Contact Author)

City University of New York - School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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