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In response to the shale gas boom some states Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia have made broad revisions of their oil and gas codes while others Arkansas, Montana, Texas have made modest, targeted changes. At a local level, particularly in states traditionally associated with strong local controls, there is on-going debate about local government's authority to regulate and restrict shale gas activities happening within its jurisdiction. These contentious debates are playing out in NY 93 and PA.

Indeed, it seems that the important debate is not whether there are water resource risks that should be regulated, but rather at what governmental level regulation should occur. For risks more regional in nature, such as withdrawals of surface or ground water, or specific BMPs for spill and erosion prevention, a one-size-fits-all federal approach might be cumbersome and inefficient. The question of where regulation is most effective is and ought to be an openly contested question, both in the US and elsewhere.

Governments in the US at all levels have responded to shale gas development. Some have created rules where before there were none, and some have revised rules to better suit current conditions.

United States Environmental Protection Agency

This response shows de facto policy evolution. In order for AM-type strategies to successfully inform complex environmental policy and decision-making, they must generally involve certain steps, and conform to certain conditions: stakeholders and policy makers must be able to discuss and roughly agree on the risks or issues they are going to address; they must acknowledge the importance of governance; they must have or be willing to explore multiple management and regulatory options; they must have the authority, means, and capacity to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of management and regulatory options once they are chosen; and they must have a willingness and mechanism for adapting and revising options in the face of new information.

In the context of water resource risks related to shale gas development, Fig. Step 1 involves acknowledgment that risks exist and that they are worth additional consideration, and it is here that polarized discussions of shale gas too often stall. Some feel that water resource risks are managed well, and that government oversight is not warranted, while others feel that risks are unacceptable and that the occurrence of negative impacts justifies government-imposed bans on development altogether.

By the time stakeholders move to step 2, development has often begun, and the ability to plan for and mitigate impacts is supplanted with reactionary policy making without adequate data, a regional strategy, or assessment and adaptation mechanisms. If stakeholders cannot agree on a set of risks of concern, they are unlikely to be willing to invest resources in studying them. Refusal to study risk may seem justified for those who feel that greater regulation should be avoided, particularly at the federal level.

However, this is a narrow way to address such an important and complex policy challenge.


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Shale gas development is a relatively new activity, and so it is understandable that our knowledge of risks is incomplete. Stakeholders have the responsibility to better understand these risks over time, and making commitments to study them is a necessary part of that process. In the US, all levels of government have important roles to play at steps 3 and 4 Fig. The large size and broad authority of the federal government gives it the ability to address general concerns of water resource risks raised by communities, particularly those involving cumulative impacts that go beyond state boundaries and jurisdictions.

This may be necessary even when individual activities are conducted safely and in accordance with rules and regulations. Institutions or agencies with broad interstate, regional, or federal missions are also needed so that transparent analyses can be conducted with the input of all involved stakeholders, especially when stakeholders may not otherwise have any responsibility to engage each other. State agencies are often intimately familiar with local conditions, and are best placed to respond to regional challenges with the kinds of appropriate strategies needed for step 3. Unfortunately, too little attention is paid to steps 5 through 7, which are critical for AM strategies to be effective.

In some cases, such as the PA database on violations, data is being collected. But to do this takes political will, time to establish reporting systems that operators can become familiar with, and money to hire staff to build and maintain database architecture. Political will might be conflicted or lacking because of fear of public reproach should information on government performance and environmental risk be made publically available.

There is also the worry that moves toward greater transparency and more stringent oversight and compliance might drive industry away, along with its potential economic benefits. It is unclear if this has happened in the US. As our discussion of risks related to ground and surface water quality shows, baseline information — before shale gas development begins — is generally needed to assess subsequent impacts. Planning, therefore, is critical. However, revenues that might support such planning efforts are often derived from shale gas activity itself, meaning that money to hire adequate planners, inspectors, and scientists only comes after the activity they are meant to plan for begins.

Thus, many agencies put the cart before the horse by design. More broadly, funding cuts exacerbate the fact that state agencies often do not have staff, time, or mandate to engage in organized data collection efforts, or to analyze such data in a way that might inform adaptive policy. Indeed, some have argued that the provision for adequate staff and compliance penalties remains among the largest challenges of minimizing environmental impact due to shale gas development, particularly in states where such activity is new.

Most importantly, funding needs to be made available for appropriate levels of staff, which must have enforcement and compliance tools that can bring about desired best practices and management. The final step in this simplified AM decision-making process is to adapt policies according to new information. There is a tendency for all stakeholders to assume that old oil and gas regulations are good enough, because they have worked in the past. But, as we have seen, shale gas development, particularly its rapid pace and large scale, brings with it new risks, and new variations of old risks.

These new and different risks do not necessarily mean that development should stop. But, it is critical that all stakeholders commit to continued discussion of risks, and policies that might address them. Adaptive policies should use recent science and stakeholder experience to build a more realistic picture of risk, and should balance this with other stakeholder considerations and values.

Ultimately, the AM process forms a circle, and the collaborative definition of important issues begins again. The lessons to be learned from shale gas development in the US are complicated, as is the potential role and advantage of using frameworks such as AM. While many states appear to manage water resource risks associated with shale gas well, some are still catching up, even while development is occurring. Although it makes sense that regional characteristics should drive better-adapted rules, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that this is what actually happens in practice.

Polarized, politicized debates prevent the kind of rule-making and pragmatic discussions that we ought to be having about such complex issues. The result is that rules rarely get articulated until they are absolutely necessary, are highly reactive in nature, and reflect the risks that are of popular concern rather than those that may actually exist. AM approaches could solidify support for research, assessment, and planning, could serve to normalize the need to set aside funding for staff before development begins, and could ease some of the conflict that accompanies discussions around the necessity to revisit and revise old policies and management paradigms.

Management of water resource risks by government agencies at all levels has evolved de facto over time. Adaptive Management or similar strategies could help to lessen polarization and deadlock in public discourse on policy responses to shale gas development by: helping to establish consensus risks; solidifying support for research, assessment and planning; providing a rationale for funding important aspects of governance before activity begins; and decreasing resistance to adaptive policy-making that seeks to combine state-of-the-art science with regional economic, social, and value considerations.

Received 6th January , Accepted 17th March Table 1 Select water management characteristics of prominent US shale gas plays. Table 2 Examples of tracers or indicators in fluids associated with shale gas development in the Marcellus Shale; not necessarily applicable to other plays, but illustrative of possible geochemical tools. Rahm, L.

Fracking's Impact on the Environment

Bertoia, V. Vanka and S. Riha, unpublished work. Environmental impact This critical review assesses our current scientific understanding of a variety of water resource risks associated with shale gas development, with a focus on the United States, and the Marcellus Shale, in particular. We also review and discuss how various stakeholders, including governments, regulatory agencies, industry, and others, have responded to these risks through practice and policy. Adaptive Management, a structured framework for addressing complex environmental issues, is discussed as a method for reducing polarization of important discussions on risk, and to more formally engage science in policy-making, along with other economic, social and value considerations.

Differentiate between Marcellus and other sources such as coal drainage or conventional brines. EPA science would benefit from adopting best practices of institutions that are trying to reward collaborative and open-. There is a growing number of examples of fostering innovation through open communication and collaboration. Another example of a collaborative-network approach is the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, which supports research across disciplines, uses existing data to address ecologic challenges and challenges in allied fields, and encourages the use of science to support management and policy decisions.

Collaboration can also take the form of interaction with members of the general public which may include people who have scientific expertise. As discussed in Chapter 3 , massive online collaboration, also known as crowd-sourcing, involves issuing an open call that allows an undefined large group of people or community crowd to address a problem or issue that is traditionally addressed by specific individuals. With a well-designed process, crowdsourcing can help to assemble quickly the data, expertise, and resources required to perform a task or solve a problem by allowing people and organizations to collaborate freely and openly across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.

The idea behind regulatory crowdsourcing is that almost every kind of regulation today, from air and water quality to food safety and financial services, could benefit from having a larger crowd of informed people helping to gather, classify, and analyze shared pools of publicly accessible data—data that can be used to educate the public, enhance science, inform public policy-making, or even spur regulatory enforcement actions.

Today, a growing number of regulatory agencies including EPA, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and the US Food and Drug Administration see social media and online collaboration as a means of providing richer, more useful, and more interactive pathways for participation. EPA is no stranger to crowdsourcing. Indeed, for the Toxic Release Inventory, EPA released preliminary data to the public to utilize crowdsourcing as a means for improving and refining the data. The public right-to-know dimension of TRI provided an early example of using informational approaches to encourage environmental change, and also spurred the development of sites like MapEcos.

There are several opportunities for crowdsourcing or citizen science the involvement of the general public in monitoring or other forms of data collection to augment or enhance EPA scientific and regulatory capabilities, including crowdsourced data collection, urban sensing, and environmental problem-solving. In some domains, EPA would be poised to launch efforts in the near term on the basis of its experiences and existing infrastructure.

In others, there would need to be investment in key technologies or resources to make the efforts practical and informative. Finding: Research on environmental issues is not confined to EPA. In the United States, it is spread across a number of federal agencies, national laboratories, and universities and other public-sector and private-sector facilities.

There are also strong programs of environmental research in the public and private sectors in many other nations. Recommendation: The committee recommends that EPA improve its ability to track systematically, to influence, and in some cases to engage in collaboration with research being done by others in the United States and internationally. The committee suggests the following mechanisms for approaching the recommendation above:. As EPA strives to conduct science that anticipates, innovates, takes the long view, and is collaborative, it will be useful for the agency to draw on recent examples to understand in practical terms how it might apply these approaches effectively and in an integrated fashion.

The committee describes one such example above in the discussion of the emergence of nanotechnologies and how EPA can better anticipate new technologies. Another broader example, which cuts across all aspects of improving EPA science, is the issue of hydraulic fracturing of shale for natural gas or hydrofracking.

See Box In particular, many multifactorial problems require systems thinking that can be. However, future problems will go beyond cross-media situations and will need to consider global climate and local air quality, land-use patterns and environmental degradation, and implications for industry, the public, and the environment. The development and operation of hydrofracking facilities can affect surface and ground water, soil, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. More broadly, the availability of growing quantities of economically-competitive natural gas can influence industry choices in response to EPA air quality regulations and other rule makings for example, utility decisions to replace coal-fired electric generating facilities with combined-cycle natural gas in response to EPA emissions rules.

Natural gas availability may also have important impacts on other segments of the economy for example, transportation would be impacted with the development of natural gas infrastructure. Over the last several years, EPA has become increasingly involved in investigating hydrofracking, both on its own and in concert with a number of federal agencies.

For example, in response to FY appropriations language, the agency launched a study of the potential impacts of hydrofracking on groundwater EPA e , which has been very closely monitored and criticized by industry Batelle The case of hydrofracking gives EPA an opportunity to consider how its science can anticipate, innovate, take the long view, and collaborate, and how it can better embrace systems thinking. Such an examination could try to address the questions posed below, among others.

Anticipate: Hydrofracking emerged in the first decade of this century as a rapidly growing means of natural gas and some oil production, first in the western United States and in Texas, and then, beginning in , in the. Its production has grown from a few wells in the beginning to thousands of wells over the last 5 to 10 years.


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  4. How quickly did it grasp both water and air implications? How quickly did it understand the potential need to revisit both its research and regulatory activities? Innovate: Innovation can be important in something like hydrofracking in a number of ways. For example, assessing complex hydrogeologic systems to understand potential groundwater contamination requires a set of advanced technical skills and familiarity with the latest technologies. At the same time, understanding the potential biologic and ecologic effects of the large number of chemicals being used in hydrofracking requires relatively rapid action, necessitating a decision on the applicability and utility of tools potentially including life-cycle assessment, health impact assessment, and high-throughput screening and techniques to evaluate chemical mixtures.

    How has EPA met these and other needs for innovation in this case? In addition to their own actions, how well have they brought on board the skills and experience of other agencies and the private sector? Take the long view: While there has been a primary focus on potential shorter-term effects of hydrofracking, it is likely, as with many cases of potential groundwater contamination, that the full potential for contamination can only be determined with a commitment to long-term monitoring around the facilities.

    EPA has been part of a government-wide effort to coordinate hy-drofracking activities for example, working with the US Geological Survey on long term ground water monitoring. But to what extent is the agency looking at any of its relevant permitting and other authorities and considering how to build long-term monitoring and disclosure into all actions? Such an activity would help to build an essential long-term database. Is collaborative : There has rarely been an issue that touches on so many public agencies at the federal, state, and local level. The US Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, US Geological Survey, Department of Energy, state and local environment and health agencies, and many others including the private sector are engaged in a wide range of testing, research, and other activities necessary to assess potential risk.

    How well has the agency applied the principles and ideas described above to enhance its collaboration on an issue like hydrofracking? What could it do to improve that collaboration? Beyond these four important attributes of leading edge science, hydrofracking also raises a number of broader challenges related to systems thinking that are illustrative of the need for EPA to better embrace such thinking in all it does. For example, to what extent should EPA be stepping back from the near-term water-quality and air-quality issues to ask more fundamental systems questions such as: What are the life-cycle implications of natural.

    From a sustainability point of view, are there ways in which consumers could be encouraged to decrease their consumption of energy that comes from natural gas rather than simply increasing the production of natural gas? This case example is not designed to be prescriptive or to suggest that the agency has not been pursuing many of the questions. Many analytic tools and skills can contribute to analyzing and evaluating such complex scenarios.

    These tools can be used in conjunction with one another and as inputs to methods for synthesis and evaluation for decisions. In each situation, it is important to integrate efforts to characterize both human health and ecosystem effects. Performing such analysis requires an accounting of where all materials used in an activity originate and end up.

    It also requires an accounting of all the inputs into the activity such as energy and transportation and their associated environmental consequences and of the changes in other behaviors and other activities that the primary activity induces. Box discusses an example of the need for and challenges of LCA. The idea of LCA is appealing, but the technical details of how to do it well are very challenging. Broadly, two approaches are traditionally used. Data are often inadequate, and strategies to figure out the best way of drawing system boundaries need attention.

    In addition, although the life-cycle inventory can be constructed in many situations, determining the health or ecologic effects can be challenging given the array of pollutants, the broad scope, and the resulting lack of site specificity of emissions or effects. Researchers have developed approaches to integrating health risk-assessment concepts into process-based LCA, taking account of such factors as pollutant partition coefficients, stack height, and population density to refine the characterization of effects Humbert et al. The second approach involves conducting input—output LCA, in which large matrices of transfers between economic sectors are constructed.

    That allows consideration of the full ripple effects of actions that are influencing a specific sector Majeau-Bettez et al. LCA tools and inventories have been much further developed and applied in other regions, such as Europe Finnveden et al. The need for and challenges of LCA are seen in the case of biofuels.

    Some analyses suggest that regulatory requirements regarding the use of such fuels may not reduce carbon dioxide emissions and indeed might even increase them NRC Those analyses suggest that such mandates could result in a loss of US crop lands available for food production because of the use of the land to produce fuel. That, in turn, could result in pressures to clear forest land in other parts of the world which is an example of indirect land-use effects Searchinger et al. In addition, the fertilizer to grow such fuel crops in the midwestern United States may contribute to runoff that exacerbates the anoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico Rabalais Thoughtful analysis and interpretation of the results of LCA for biofuels are necessary because some of its methods and assumptions remain controversial Khosla ; Kline and Dale For example, a simple chemical substitution may result in the use of a new product that may be safer for consumers but may cause effects on workers far upstream in the production process.

    In addition, LCA is an inherently comparative tool because it considers the life-cycle implications of multiple products or processes that achieve the same end use. This so-called functional unit determination is intended to be broad and to encourage innovation in the development of solutions by focusing on what a consumer needs from a product rather than on the product itself. Box outlines the opportunities that LCA or life-cycle thinking can provide to enhance systems thinking about complex problems.

    The advent of new science tools and techniques means that the suite of traditional tools need to be reviewed and enhanced for 21st century challenges and opportunities. The risk-based decision-making framework proposed in Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment NRC offers an opportunity, and detailed recommendations, for the agency to revisit and revamp its current practices. In particular, this would encourage linkages between risk assessment and various solutions-oriented approaches. Beyond enhancements in traditional single-chemical risk assessment, many of the trends in both science and risk-assessment practice in recent years involve moving from a single-chemical perspective to a multistressor perspective.

    Multiple recent NRC committees have addressed cumulative risk assessment extensively NRC , , and the present committee concurs with the prior recommendations. Moreover, the committee supports the growing emphasis in EPA on this topic which includes both intramural and extramural research , noting that these efforts have increasingly emphasized community-based participatory approaches, applications in disadvantaged communities, and use of epidemiologic insight. Nonetheless, although much of the emphasis of previous NRC reports has been on cumulative risk assessment for human health effects, it is possible that insights and approaches from ecosystem-based cumulative impact analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] could be adapted to cumulative risk assessment for human health effects.

    Cumulative risk assessment contains many subcategories of exposure, health, and ecologic risk analyses, and it is important for EPA to examine its research portfolio in this domain carefully to ensure that it is well aligned with the ultimate decision contexts. With the increased use of LCA or life-cycle thinking, identification of combinations of exposures associated with processes or technologies would be increasingly common, and methods to characterize the ecologic and human health implications of combined exposures would be valuable.

    There are potentially valuable applications of advanced biosciences for evaluating various chemical mixtures rapidly, but they would not capture psychosocial stressors and other prevalent community-scale factors that are of increasing interest to the agency and various stakeholders Nweke et al. New epidemiologic methods or application of epidemiologic insights can start to address those factors, but today they are limited in the number of stressors and locations with adequate exposure data and sample size that they can accommodate.

    Advancing methods along both fronts, ideally in a coordinated and mutually reinforcing manner, would be the most fruitful approach. As EPA concentrates increasingly on wicked problems and broad mandates related to sustainability, narrowly focused risk assessments that omit complex interactions will be increasingly uninformative and unsupportive of effective preventive decisions. The broad challenge before the agency will involve developing tools and approaches to characterize cumulative effects in complex systems and harnessing insights from multistressor analyses without paralyzing decisions because of analytic complexities or missing data.

    Systems thinking involves acknowledgment, up front, that environmental conditions are substantially determined by the individual and collective interactions that humans have with environmental processes. As discussed in Chapter 2 , the human drivers of environmental change include population growth, settlement patterns, land uses, landscape patterns, the structure of the built environment, consumption patterns, the mix and amounts of energy sources, the spatial structure of production, and a host of other relevant variables.

    Social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences show that those drivers are not independent of the natural environments in which effects occur, and that there are feedbacks, positive and negative, between human and environmental systems Diamond ; Ostrom ; Taylor Environmental science and engineering also provide technologies for altering the relationships between humans and the environment and tools for predicting environmental change in response to changes in social and economic systems.

    That knowledge is all essential and useful for informing environmental decisions and policies; however, additional knowledge, skills, and expertise are needed.

    To make well-informed policies and decisions that are sustainable, it is essential to integrate theories of, evidence on, and tools for understanding how people respond to changes in the environ-. Social, economic, behavioral, and decision scientists have the knowledge and expertise to produce analyses that augment traditional health and ecosystem studies to inform policy-makers and stakeholders of the potential economic and social effects of policy decisions.

    Such analyses have the potential to elucidate the selection of the best solutions not only for the environment but for society as a whole. Spatially explicit assessments of the effects of policies on wages, employment opportunities, and environmental exposures are crucial for understanding the distribution of the benefits and costs of policies and associated community effects by income class, race, and other characteristics relevant to equity and environmental justice see, for example, Geoghegan and Gray Social, economic, behavioral, and decision scientists can help decision-makers to identify unintended environmental or social consequences of public policies such as through the use of predictive economic modeling integrated with environmental modeling.

    One example is the identification of adverse effects of economically induced land-use changes that resulted from ethanol and renewable-energy policies on nutrient pollution and greenhouse gas emissions Searchinger et al. The effectiveness of environmental policies can be improved if the heterogeneity of humans, the implications of land use, transportation, and other policies affecting the environment, and general equilibrium feedbacks in economic systems are taken into account Greenstone and Gayer ; Kuminoff et al.

    Providing such information to decision-makers could avoid unintended environmental or social outcomes of regulations and policies. In addition, social, economic, behavioral, and decision scientists have the knowledge and expertise to analyze consumer and business behavior to find less expensive, more effective, and fairer ways to achieve environmental goals both in the context of existing legislation and in the context of fundamental policy innovations. For example, research with agent-based simulation models Roth ; Duffy ; Tesfatsion and Judd ; Zhang and Zhang ; Parker and Filatova and laboratory and field experiments Roth ; Suter et al.

    For EPA, social, economic, behavioral, and decision science skills can enhance several types of activities that support decisions, including regulatory impact assessments mandated by Executive Order and others, estimates of economic and social benefits and costs associated with alternative courses of action, and valuation of health benefits and ecosystem services to inform benefit—cost analysis. EPA has made some strides in improving its efforts in this re-. But even if the gaps are addressed, the benefits of using economics, social, behavioral, and decision sciences in EPA cannot be fully realized unless these areas of expertise are genuinely integrated into EPA decision-making and decision support.

    The gaps identified by the committee are compounded further by the need for tools to address systems-level impacts—which are often highly uncertain in nature such as indirect but interconnected impacts of a particular decision or activity —and solutions that address root causes of problems. The process of developing a total maximum daily load TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay is an example in which EPA conducted high-quality environmental science but did not adequately integrate social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences.

    That research has been crucial for the development of the science that underpins the TMDL, but the TMDL was developed without studies of the benefits and costs. Furthermore, and perhaps even more problematic, EPA has neither conducted nor sponsored substantial social, economic, behavioral, and decision science research on fundamental policy questions related to inducing the behavioral changes that are essential for achieving the TMDL. Among the social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences, only economics is generally mandated in EPA.

    Regulatory impact assessments to determine the benefits and costs of environmental regulation are mandated by various. Some environmental legislation requires benefit and cost evaluations outside the regulatory process. The leading example is Section of the Clean Air Act Amendments of , which requires EPA to develop periodic reports to Congress that estimate the economic benefits and costs of provisions of the act; program offices are responsible for regulatory impact assessments in their fields.

    Evaluations of EPA economic assessments indicate that they can be useful and influential. There are many uncertain and potentially controversial dimensions associated with the use of benefit—cost analysis as conducted for regulatory impact assessments. In principle, such analyses identify, quantify, and monetize the multiple outcomes of an environmental decision or policy into a single indicator of economic efficiency. If multiple alternatives are considered in the analyses, benefit-cost analyses can support a solutions orientation by incorporating economics factors into the risk-based decision-making paradigm described earlier.

    Apart from procedural details, there is debate about the validity of economic concepts of value for environmental and some other goods for example, the value of life , the capacity of economics to measure some types of values, the discounting of future costs and benefits, the treatment of uncertainty and irreversibility, and the relevance of economic efficiency, as one among many societal objectives, to environmental decisions EPA ; Ackerman and Heinzerling ; Posner ; Sunstein Despite the controversies, the importance of benefit—cost analysis for regulatory impact assessments is recognized almost universally.

    Harrington et al. If implemented, a number of those recommendations would help integrate benefit—cost analysis with other tools to support systems thinking, including a focus on comparing multiple policy alternatives, making decisions given multi-. The issues of multidimensional decision-making and addressing uncertainty in complex systems are discussed below. Even if benefit—cost analysis were implemented based on the recommendations from Harrington et al.

    For example, a value-of-a-statistical life VSL approach is used to assign monetary values to reductions in mortality risk. Although EPA does provide more recent references to frame the discussion, including studies of how VSL may vary as a function of life expectancy or health status, the core quantitative value remains based on old studies that are not necessarily relevant to the people most vulnerable to air-pollution health effects.

    Inasmuch as analyses have consistently shown that uncertainty in VSL dominates the overall uncertainty in benefit—cost analyses and given that policy choices may hinge on this value, it seems incumbent on EPA to invest in intramural and extramural research specifically on it. Similarly, with respect to morbidity outcomes, the most recent willingness-to-pay study that was incorporated into the analysis of the Clean Air Act Amendments EPA f was conducted in In that benefit-cost analysis, multiple key health outcomes were valued by using only cost-of-illness information.

    Valuation of the ecologic and welfare benefits of air-pollution reductions is similarly lacking; the only dimensions monetized are the effects of reductions in agricultural and forest productivity on the price of related goods, the willingness to pay for visibility improvements based on studies conducted 20—30 years ago , damage to building materials, and effects on recreational fishing and timber in the Adirondacks.

    Funding for valuation research has been reduced, and disciplinary interest in valuation research, once a major topic in environmental-economics journals, has diminished.

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    Assessing and addressing gaps in the environmental-benefits estimates should have high priority and can be tackled through research designs that produce statistically representative samples for EPA regulatory impact assessments for the importance of standardization and sampling strategies for water see, for example, Bruins and Heberling ; Van Houtven et al.

    The challenges in addressing these gaps are not trivial given budget constraints and logistics barriers to collecting public data. Scientific progress has always depended on synthesis of disparate data, concepts, and theories Carpenter et al. The combined forces of increasing research specialization, an explosion of scientific information, and growing demand for solutions to pressing environmental problems have made scientific synthesis more challenging and more urgent than ever before.

    In recent years, the National Science Foundation and other agencies have invested considerable funds in synthesis research centers. At least 19 such centers have now been established in the United States and abroad. They have demonstrated the power and cost effectiveness of bringing together multidisciplinary collaborative groups to integrate and analyze data to generate new scientific knowledge that has increased generality, parsimony, applicability, and empirical soundness Hampton and Parker The impact of well-designed synthesis efforts extends beyond the life of the projects themselves.

    Projects spin off new and unexpected collaborative research, and researchers tend to expand the multidisciplinary breadth of their research Hampton and Parker Several mechanisms that increase the creative productivity of multidisciplinary synthesis research have been identified, notably open, competitive calls for projects; face-to-face interactions at a neutral facility free of distractions; and multiple working group meetings that enable technology and analytic support, institutional diversity, diversity of career stages, inclusion of postdoctoral fellows, and moderately large group size Hackett et al.

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    EPA often produces useful synthesis reports that summarize the state of knowledge on a topic, but this is not a substitute for synthesis research. The agency could make more use of deliberately designed synthesis research activities to promote multidisciplinary collaborations and accelerate progress toward integrated sustainability science.

    Given its corpus of researchers in both environmental and health sciences, the agency is well positioned to pursue synthesis research that brings together environmental science and public-health science data and perspectives. Systems-level problems are rarely amenable to simple quantitative decision measures.

    Flow short description

    More often than not, complex problems require consideration of multiple types of information including quantitative and qualitative data , characterization of different types of uncertainty, and consideration of prevention options. The information base might include outputs from tools such as LCA or cumulative risk assessment, integrated with economic and other information in a structured framework to inform decisions. There is a need for the agency to develop consistent approaches for synthesizing a broad array of systems information on hazards, exposures, solutions, and values.

    Most recently, EPA has attempted to realign its existing science decision-making processes in line with the sustainability framework proposed by the NRC Committee on Incorporating Sustainability in the US Environmental Protection Agency NRC a , although implementation of that realignment is in its early stages. The committee identified several approaches that could provide support to the agency in establishing consistent approaches for more holistic decisions. They include enhanced sustainability analysis as recommended by NRC a , solutions-oriented approaches such as alternatives assessment and health impact assessment , and multicriteria decision analysis.

    EPA has recently begun to implement tools and approaches to determine how the science that it is developing and decisions made on the basis of it support sustainability Anastas That committee developed its sustainability framework and the sustainability assessment and management approach Figure to provide guidance to EPA on incorporating sustainability into decision-making. They build on the traditional risk-assessment and risk-management framework of the agency. The framework and assessment and management approach are built on traditional principles of vision, objectives, goals, and metrics.

    The goals of sustainability analysis are to expand decision consideration to include multiple sustainability options and their social, environmental, and economic consequences; to include the intergenerational effects of consequences in addition to more immediate ones; and to involve a broad array of stakeholders. Many of these concepts intersect with the solutions-oriented approaches discussed in this section, including the expansive scope and stakeholder involvement that will be discussed in the health impact assessment HIA paragraph below, the use of behavioral science and economics to consider an array of impacts, and the use of life-cycle thinking to avoid creating upstream and downstream problems.

    The framework and approach lay out a series of steps that should be taken in evaluating sustainability implications of a particular decision. The evaluation tools to be used will depend on the nature and needs of the particular decision. There has been an increasing emphasis among advisory committees and in EPA on moving away from characterizing problems and toward determining and evaluating solutions.

    For example, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment NRC emphasized that risk assessment should be used to discriminate among risk-management options, not as an end in itself, and this suggests a framework within which alternative options are considered upfront. A recent NRC report NRC b gave recommendations about HIA as a solutions-oriented policy tool to introduce health considerations into numerous policy decisions that could have direct or indirect health implications.

    Both approaches explicitly emphasize conducting analyses that help discriminate among policy options and that use planning and scoping to devise analyses that are of an appropriate level of sophistication given the decision context. For example, HIA incorporates systems thinking and encourages development of broad conceptual models to avoid unanticipated risk tradeoffs, which is a valuable approach to incorporate into numerous analytic tools. HIA also endorses the use of both quantitative and qualitative information to inform decisions, and it explicitly considers equity issues and vulnerable populations that may not be captured within benefit-cost analyses or related tools.

    Source: NRC a. In parallel, alternatives assessment has formed the basis of pollution-prevention planning efforts, the chemical-alternatives assessment processes undertaken by the EPA Design for the Environment program see Chapter 3 , and technology options analysis in chemical safety efforts. Although alternatives assessment is not strictly tied to risk assessment and risk management, it similarly involves the systematic analysis of a wide array of options for a potentially damaging activity that are evaluated on the basis of hazard, performance, social, and economic factors.

    Beyond HIA and alternatives assessment, there are several other tools for applying systems thinking that are intrinsically solutions-oriented. For example, LCA emphasizes comparing alternative methods for addressing a defined need, and benefit—cost analysis is designed to compare multiple policy options to arrive at an optimal choice. Regardless of the specific approach and application, those approaches all provide a tool for focusing on solutions and innovation opportunities and drawing attention to what a government agency or proponent of an activity could be doing to solve the problem at hand rather than simply characterizing it in finer detail.

    They also provide opportunities to evaluate the reduction of multiple risks rather than simply focusing on controlling a single hazard, potentially leveraging the methods and approaches within cumulative risk assessment. Box gives an example of a solutions-oriented approach for reducing chemical use. Many of the above solutions-oriented approaches are currently in use in some manner in EPA, but they are not applied comprehensively and systematically across the agency. However, alternatives-assessment approaches are built into numerous laws and international treaties.

    The process for carrying out an environmental impact statement under NEPA and state programs is one of the most comprehensive examples for the requirement of alternatives assessment at the national level Tickner and Geiser When assessments are undertaken under NEPA, agencies and organizations that use public funds and that are carrying out activities that might have substantial effects on the environment need to undergo the process for creating an environmental impact statement. NEPA regulations require that the process described above be carried out before the start of any activity that might have environmental effects.

    An interdisciplinary approach is undertaken to ensure that environmental effects and values are comprehensively identified and examined; to ensure that appropriate and reasonable alternatives are rigorously studied, developed, and described; and to recommend specific courses of action. The first step of assessing effects is a scoping process, during which potential effects are broadly defined and.

    The NEPA environmental impact statement approach, supplemented by new approaches to health impact assessment, provides a way of integrating scientific information from multiple sources into decisions that focus on evaluating prevention options. The solvent trichloroethylene TCE has been targeted for substantial reductions in exposure by EPA and numerous states because of its toxicity, particularly its potential carcinogenicity. It is commonly found at Superfund sites and is of particular concern because it can leach into and contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies. TCE is mainly used to degrease metal parts and it can cause harmful occupational exposures if it is accidentally spilled.

    Applying traditional end-of-pipe control approaches have, in many cases, resulted in the TCE problem being shifted from air to water to land rather than the problem being eliminated. Reducing human exposures to TCE cannot be solved using a simple solution; a systems-based and solutions-oriented approach must be used. Under the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, chemical manufacturers that produce large quantities of toxic chemicals, which include TCE, are required to pay a fee and to conduct a form of systems analysis.

    The analysis includes a materials throughput analysis every year and a facility planning process analysis every 2 years to understand how and why chemicals are being used and to assess potential process and product modifications that would reduce toxic material use and waste. Most cleaning tasks that use TCE can be performed with alternative organic solvents or with water-based cleaners. In general, water-based cleaners are preferred because they are usually safer for human health and the environment.

    TURI has been working with manufacturers of metal parts and manufacturers of electronics to help them move from TCE to safer and more cost-effective cleaning solutions. TURI determined that one of the barriers in the adoption of safer alternatives is the concern that productivity and product specifications might suffer if standard metal cleaning procedures are altered. EPA has substantially contributed to the advancement of analytic techniques and tools to detect environmental stressors and characterize health and ecosystem impacts of those stressors.

    While better characterization of problems is important, it is critical that the agency apply this knowledge to primary pre-vention—that is, the design of safer and more sustainable forms of production and consumption. Like sustainability, a focus on solutions should be more than a simple mission statement. It must be linked to adequate resources, tools, and infrastructure at the highest levels of the agency. The tools of alternatives assessment, HIA, and the sustainability management approach all incorporate an array of information to arrive at a preferred solution, but this becomes increasingly challenging given numerous dimensions that often cannot be compared on the same scale.

    Benefit—cost analysis is a well-known example in which the multiple outcomes of a decision are monetized if possible and aggregated into a single indicator of economic efficiency, but it cannot provide a complete ranking of alternatives if stakeholders and environmental decision-makers are interested in other objectives such as fairness across income classes, regions, or racial groups; generations in the distribution of burdens and benefits; or norms in the treatment of nonhuman organisms.

    Benefit— cost analysis is useful and sometimes mandated for regulatory impact assessments, but its value is limited in dealing with complex issues in which economic efficiency is only one of many important objectives for environmental decision-makers and their stakeholders. While deliberative approaches may be warranted in complex situations, especially when both quantitative and qualitative information are being used, analytic approaches to integrate data from multiple sources and types into a single number or range of numbers have tremendous potential.

    One approach to solving problems that have multiple incommensurate dimensions is to use tools within the realm of multiple-criteria decision-making MCDM Figueira et al Within the broad framework of informatics, developing and applying MCDM in conjunction with uncertainty analysis and data-mining Shi et al. Like benefit—cost analysis, MCDM is an approach that creates and assigns a preference index to rank policy options on the basis of the totality of all adopted criteria. Instead, the method is flexible for selecting weights and it is often designed to use weights assigned by the decision-maker.

    This flexibility allows for the inclusion of a broader set of objectives, although the selection can be inherently contentious. The preference index value attributable to each criterion reflects the nature and importance of the criterion, for example, cost, benefits,. MCDM has been applied successfully in environmental decision-making Moffett and Sarkar ; Hajkowicz and Collins ; however, criterion-specific constituents of the preference index for each policy option are affected by the quality of the science and evidence, scaling, and other factors that can limit validity Hajkowicz and Collins An alternative to single-objective formulations is to provide decision-makers with the Pareto optimal set of nondominated candidate solutions.

    Essentially, the Pareto optimal set is constructed by identifying decisions that can improve one or more objectives without harming any other. Use of the Pareto optimal set does not determine a single preferred approach but presents decision-makers with a smaller set of options from which to choose.

    The concept of Pareto optimal sets is not new, but the capacity to apply it in decision-making has been greatly expanded by recent methodologic advances in optimization techniques most notably multiobjective evolutionary algorithms and computation of Pareto sets for large complex problems, and this has increased the scope of environmental and other applications Coello et al. Following fatigue loading, unconfined compressive strength and the elastic properties; Young's modulus and Poisson's ratio were measured.

    The cement strength, elastic properties, and dissipated energy were analyzed in reference to the number of fatigue cycles. The elastic properties determined during fatigue testing were applied to an analytical model which calculates cement stress in a multi-layer wellbore system. Results show that cement elastic properties can evolve under fatigue loading and lead to otherwise un-anticipated cement sheath failure.

    De Andrade, J. Society of Petroleum Engineers. Murrill, B. Ravi, K. Shadravan, A. Thiercelin, M. F, and Rodriguez, W.