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Electronic Democracy and Environmental Governance

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Interesting report on the role of US state governments in applying (or not applying) principles of electronic democary to environmental decisionmaking. If you know of other (national or international) studies on the relationship of electronic networking to state-civil society relations, please let me know....mark


October 19, 2000

ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY AND ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE: A SURVEY OF THE STATES Information technology is rapidly changing the way we work, shop, and play. Some envision a future where it also has a profound effect on democracy, with governments at all levels using Internet-based technology to engage citizens in the democratic process.

A new paper by researchers at Resources for the Future (RFF) says that state-level governments are in an early and experimental phase in applying the principles of electronic democracy to environmental decisionmaking. The paper describes an RFF survey examining how all 50 states use the Internet to engage citizens in environmental issues. (The survey can be found at .)

RFF researchers found that while all 50 states have environmental Web sites that provide at least basic information, relatively few use the Internet for active on-line interaction between citizens and government, or among citizens themselves.

States generally have embraced the notion of posting environmental laws and regulations on their Web sites. Seventy percent of the states received a high score for the basic legal information they provide. Sixty percent of the states scored high for the information they provide on state environmental conditions; half scored high for providing easy on-line access to information on particular environmental problems and pollutants. Only 40 percent scored high marks for the information they provide about regulated facilities in the state, such as chemical companies, landfills, underground storage tanks or Superfund sites.

Beyond simply providing information, states were evaluated for the degree to which their Web sites invite public involvement in the environmental decisionmaking process. Only 36 percent of states received a high score for allowing the public to submit electronic comments on proposed regulations via e-mail or a Web-based form. Interviews with state agency staff, however, suggest that on-line notice and comment is emerging as a key interactive feature in many states, and on-line input is increasingly being treated the same as that received through more traditional means.

The survey is one part of a larger project at RFF to examine the impact of the Internet on public participation in environmental decisionmaking. For more information on the RFF project on Electronic Environmental Democracy: The Future of Information Technology in Participatory Environmental Management, go to

Resources for the Future is a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank located in Washington, DC that conducts independent research -- rooted primarily in economics and other social sciences -- on environmental and natural resource issues.

CONTACT: Tom Beierle, Fellow
Resources for the Future
(202) 328-5015

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Last updated: November 3, 2000 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0