From Agitation to Collaboration: Clearing the Air through Negotiation

  • Weber E
  • Khademian A
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Abstract

Conflict, agitation, and delay have long defined policy making in the environmental arena. Yet in recent years, collaboration has been utilized in a limited number of cases in an attempt to develop regulatory policy that is more robust and enforceable, and that requires less time and money to develop. A growing literature examines these collaborative ventures, but two questions are left unanswered: Why is collaboration initiated in some instances and not in others, and why does collaboration fail in some instances, yet produce consensus in others? In this article we examine the collaborative effort to negotiate a regulation (a "reg-neg") for the development and use of reformulated gasoline (RFG) as a means to reduce urban smog. While the reformulated gasoline case met criteria established by regulators as essential for applying a reg-neg, the potential for conflict and indeed failure was very high. Nevertheless, a consensus agreement was reached and the reformulated gasoline rule was implemented on time (January 1995) as mandated by Congress. Based upon interviews conducted with participants in the reformulated gasoline reg-neg and government documents related to the proceedings, we identify a three-part "assurance mechanism" necessary for bringing participants to the negotiating table and keeping them there until an agreement is reached. This mechanism stands as a model to be tested in other research of collaborative policy making. We also examine the effectiveness of collaboration for producing a workable and acceptable regulation.

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Authors

  • Edward P Weber

  • Anne M Khademian

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