NEPA, Ecosystem Management and Environmental Accounting
Widener University - Delaware Law School
Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, Vol. 14, p. 185, 2000
If law were to reorient our analytical framework so that each decision were to include, to the greatest extent possible, adverse environmental consequences, we could institutionalize a process of making sound ecosystem management decisions. One law that was supposedly designed to break decision-making out of its narrow, economically focused box was the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Predicated on the idea that governmental decisions should not be made without full consideration of adverse environmental implications of the decisions, NEPA suggests that the more environmentally realistic our expectations, the greater the opportunity to reduce poverty, increase wealth, and diminish environmental degradation. Unfortunately, NEPA does not advance the cause of sound ecosystem management or the related concept of sustainable development, but, as will become apparent, allows decisions affecting ecosystem development to be whitewashed with a thin coat of "apparent" soundness or sustainability. In other words, NEPA, as it has evolved, lets us feel comforted by the illusion that our decisions are environmentally sensitive; as a society we willingly pretend that environmental impact statements are important, thorough, reliable analyses, when in most cases they are mere formalities based on data and predictions made by people who have no accountability for error.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 8
Keywords: environmental law, NEPA, National Environmental Policy Act, sustainability
JEL Classification: K32, Q28
Date posted: November 14, 2012