The Program on Science, Technology and Environmental Policy: A Research Agenda for the Next Generation of Environmental Regulation
Author(s)Foster, James Lloyd; Larson, Harold; McCulloch, Lewis
In the view of many industry representatives there already exist technologies with improved environmental attributes for which it has not been possible to get regulatory approval or even concerted regulatory review. Is technology now getting well ahead of regulation? Can the regulatory approval process for new technologies keep up with the opportunities for innovation? There is a clear need for an objective, credible institutional base for evaluating technologies that are needed to address contemporary and long-term environmental problems. The Program in Science Technology and Environmental Policy (PSTEP) being launched at MIT seeks to be an important part of that institutional base. If the manufacturers claims can be verified, and if the potential benefits of more rapid technological innovation are significant, then industry should aggressively support programs like PSTEP that present the ability to gain timely, credible and reliable technology assessments. In order to shape the regulatory process and hasten regulatory reviews, the research products created through PSTEP must be aggressively communicated to stakeholders, and we would like to solicit input and support from industry and government to move this initiative forward. PSTEP is being designed as an academic initiative to allow graduate engineering students to do thesis work on specific environmental policy issues that are science and technology intensive. PSTEP students and faculty will work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Industry representatives to develop specific research topics and to collaborate on the decision making process. Students in the program will be jointly supervised by engineering and social science faculty, which represents a significant shift from traditional thesis work. PSTEP may assist EPA in improving its capacity for technology assessment. So much of the criticism of EPAs analytic capabilities focus on risk assessment, but at least as important is its limited capacity to evaluate technologies for their risk mitigation potential. And risk mitigation assessments must go well beyond the typical focus on a particular technologys ability to mitigate a particular risk or only on the risk directly posed by that technology. At least five sets of issues, and the tradeoffs among them, must be addressed: · Risk versus risk tradeoffs of new technologies · Potential for production efficiency gains from new products and processes · The environmental impacts of changes in supply chains due to product substitutions · Monitoring and enforcement efficiencies arising from new product and process technologies · Environmental performance incentives associated with technological innovation This whitepaper, based on findings of a workshop held at MIT on November 1st, 2001, provides background for the issues that the program will explore and proposes ways in which the PSTEP initiative working with partners in government and industry can address these issues.