Masters Thesis

Environmental new federalism and fracking: lessons from the Colorado experience

This article seeks to evaluate the states’ capacity to create environmental regulation that does not give in to the major pitfalls associated with environmental new federalism. The emergence of environmental new federalism as the federal government’s preferred framework for deciding who has the authority to regulate environmental issues has led to regulatory authority being devolved to state and local governments. The devolution of regulatory authority has allowed the states to become “green laboratories” that have created innovative and effective environmental regulations. However, critics still worry about the states’ capacity to overcome the tragedy of commons, temptation to race to the bottom or race to the top, or to use the matching principle inappropriately. In this article, I conduct a case study of fracking policy in Colorado to evaluate the state’s ability avoid the pitfalls associated with environmental new federalism while creating public policy. I find that Colorado avoided the pitfalls associated with environmental new federalism by passing innovative fracking policies with the support of the oil and natural gas industry which has promoted the expansion of the industry and mitigated the potential environmental risks.

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