Final Exam


You will need to write three short essays for the final:

  • Choose any three questions from the options below.
  • Your responses should be approximately 500 words. Do not exceed 800 words for any answer. Include your word count below each response.
  • Please include your name at the top of the document and the question number next to each response.

At or before 11am on Class 23, please submit your three essays as one document.

  1. The new Trump administration will be appointing a great many senior staff to multiple federal agencies. These individuals will have opportunities to initiate a range of administrative changes in policies and programs. On what basis can and should the new administration justify administrative (not legislative) shifts in national environmental and energy policy? That is, how should it decide and defend its environmental priorities? Shouldn't environmental policy just reflect the "best science available" at a given moment? If something more than science ought to provide the basis for environmental policy-making by administrative agencies, what additional types of evidence and arguments should come into play? Why?
  2. Habitat conservation is important, especially in ecologically significant areas. Five years ago, the state government initiated a river restoration strategy and allocated substantial funding and professional staff to support its work. Its focus has been almost entirely on the larger rivers that run through the state and support all kinds of ecological, commercial, and residential activities in the surrounding watershed. Your environmental management firm has been asked by the state legislature to organize an assessment of the river restoration program. Even before you collect any scientific evidence, you need to think about the structure of your evaluation. What kinds of things should you be trying to measure? Why? What approaches to data gathering and analysis will you use? What problems or difficulties do you anticipate? How will you try to handle them?
  3. Many states in America complain that the EPA has pre-empted a wide range of environmental policy-making and regulatory responsibilities. They want to leave these to state government. Fracking is one example of an environmental regulatory issue that remains almost entirely under the control of the states. There are very few federal regulations that apply. As might be expected, the states have adopted very different regulatory regimes. NEw York has forbidden any fracking while Texas relies heavily on private companies to self-regulate. Are you in favor or opposed to such decentralized environmental regulation? Why? Draw, to the extent possible, on the discussions we had during the semester about public policy-making, the philosophical underpinning of environmental policy, and the uses of various environmental assessment techniques.
  4. It would be foolhardy to make major investments in public infrastructure without trying to forecast and calibrate their likely impacts on humans and the environment. In 11.601, we have looked at a range of analytical tools that can be used to assess new infrastructure investments before or after they are made. Imagine you have been asked by the Mayor of Boston to analyze the likely imacts of possible private investments in burying almost all power lines in the city. Which analytic method(s) would probably be the most appropriate? Why? What non-objective judgments would need to be made as part of any such analysis? How could you insulate such judgments from political and other challenges?
  5. A major oil and gas company has initiatied regulatory approval procedures for the propsed construction of a liquid natural gas processing plant on islands off the western coast of Canada. Construction would have a major physical impact on the islands themselves, which are rich in First Nationsl cultural heritage. The project would generate enormous economic and social effects in a region with little existing industrial development, involving construction costs of more than US $10 billion over three years; a construction workforce peaking at some 2000 people; an operating workforce of about 600; and an operating life of at least 30 years. How would you suggest structuring the assessment of the project to decide whether it should go forward? Should the concerns of First Nations and environmental considerations be included in the decision-making? If so, how? Should these concerns be balanced with other factors? If so, how?