Understanding How Community Based Organizational Support Impacts Federal Climate Change Policy: A Case Study Examining the Clean Power Plan with Lessons for Advocating in the Trump Era
Presentation to the 2017 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia
Posted: 31 Jan 2018
Date Written: November 1, 2017
This paper examines effective means of impacting climate change policy using public participation by organized groups on the Clean Power Plan as a case study. The Clean Power Plan was proposed in June 2014 and promulgated in August 2015 as the centerpiece of the Obama Administration regulations combating climate change. The Clean Power Plan was highly controversial – mostly across partisan lines – and a record 4,385,309 people filed comments in the EPA docket collecting public thoughts on the proposed plan. Of those, about 4,350,855 public comments were sent to EPA as part of a petition or organized campaigns. We used principles of legal epidemiology following Public Health Law Research (PHLR) policy surveillance protocols to examine organizational support and opposition to US EPA’s Clean Power Plan as evidenced in the EPA docket for the purpose of evaluating effective and ineffective methods of impacting policy. We began by collecting the 2,937 documents and 34,454 public comments posted in the docket on Regulations.gov. In the initial examination we took a random sampling across all 34,454 posted comments and reviewed the sample against preset codes using computer assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS). In a secondary analysis we ran computer simulations on all 34,454 comments to identify patterns of concern and mechanisms of advocacy. Coders crosschecked work to determine consistency. Finally, we conducted interviews with federal regulators about the benefits and burdens of mass online participation in the notice and comment process, with particular discussion of mass campaigns. Our review concluded by identifying effective and ineffective patterns of public participation. The study makes recommendations on how public health, environmental and community-based groups can arrange campaigns to have maximum impact on environmental health regulation, including those pertaining to climate change.
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