SUS 7600C Environmental Policymaking

Fall 2017. Subject to refinement/updating.


Instructor: Ira Feldman
Schedule: Tuesdays, online sessions 7:00 - 9:40pm
Location: Online course
3 credits: 3 hours/week


Ira Feldman
president & senior counsel
greentrack strategies
skype: irafeldman
LinkedIn Profile


This course focuses on environmental policymaking, defined as the process of managing human activities in order to prevent or reduce harmful impacts on the natural world (and on humans) due to human-induced changes to the environment. Environmental policymaking, broadly conceived, gives rise to the system of legal and other constraints within which sustainability solutions are devised. Since environmental issues are often global in nature, sound environmental policymaking at any level must be fully attuned to the evolving international policy and legal environment. This course will approach environmental policy from the point of view of (i) its active creation and shaping, —typically by people in government, not-for-profit, and to some extent corporate organizations; and (ii) understanding and reacting to environmental policy developed by others. Special attention will be given to the former—the policymaking point of view. The course will provide an understanding of the process and contents of environmental policymaking in general, as well as an understanding of and practice with key analytical tools needed for sound environmental policymaking.


The course will address the development of environmental policy in the United States at the federal, state and local levels, understood as a complex decisionmaking process involving numerous institutions, processes and stakeholder groups at each level of scale. While recognizing the continuing importance of the existing federal “air-water-waste” statutory framework in understanding environmental policy, this course will also look at the causes of the current regulatory stalemate at the federal level. This “gridlock” has led to consideration of alternative pathways in environmental policymaking, including executive orders, market-based solutions and the use of voluntary programs as a complement to “command and control” regulation. Environmental policy will be presented as part of a continuum that includes law, regulation, best practices and standards. The course will explore examples of experimentation at the state and local levels, emphasizing issues of environmental justice and sustainable communities. Finally, we will ask the question: How does traditional environmental policy relate to the emerging sustainability framework? New York City will serve as our example for evolving policies on sustainability, climate change adaptation and resilience, including the response to Superstorm Sandy and Mayor DeBlasio’s OneNYC initiative.


•   Understand the process of environmental policymaking in general, and its
cyclical nature.
•   Show basic familiarity with the regulations and institutions for environmental protection in
the United States and in the global arena.
•   Understand the range of policy instruments, how environmental issues become the subject of
policymaking, and factors that affect choices among
policymaking strategies.
•   Appreciate how traditional environmental policymaking is shifting toward new and alternative
•   Demonstrate the ability to apply one or more of the analytical tools essential to sound
environmental policymaking, such as risk assessment and risk management; benefit/cost analysis; and
simulation modeling.

Course Requirements

Attendance is mandatory at all class sessions. More than 2 unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Please contact me in advance about personal emergencies or difficulties.

It will be critical to complete the readings for the course in a timely manner. Please carefully plan your time accordingly. This is a graduate-level course, so participation in class discussion will be an important learning mechanism.

The course requirements include one major research paper and an in-class presentation summarizing the findings of the research. There is no final exam. In your paper, cite all sources, using footnotes or endnotes, and include a bibliography of all references. Linkage to course and lecture materials should be prioritized, additional research is expected, and stakeholder interviews will be encouraged. Be consistent in using a citation format, e.g., Chicago Style or other accepted format.

The research paper is the linchpin of the course. It is the bridge between the concepts and principles introduced in the readings and lectures and the student’s own academic interests or professional goals. Wide latitude is given to the student in the choice of topic, representing a unique opportunity for independent study. Instructor approval is required in framing the topic to ensure relevance to the environmental policymaking course objectives. The key is to demonstrate in both a short class presentation and in a final deliverable that the policy frameworks and regulatory examples presented in the course have been effectively applied to the student’s selected area of interest.

Early in the course, there will be a two-week team exercise in which the students will split into working groups. The goal of the team exercise is for each group to thoroughly understand one of the primary federal environmental regulatory programs – air/water/waste -- and then to convey that knowledge to the other teams. Further details to be discussed in class.

In advance of each weekly class session, please prepare a short post related to a specific segment of the assigned reading for the week. The post should be 2-3 short paragraphs, similar to what might be found on a blog. The post should be something more than a summary or synopsis – I’m looking for your interpretation, analysis or critique – your perspectives or reactions to the reading.

Required Reading

Our core readings, especially early in the course, will come from the two textbooks listed immediately below. Supplementary readings for each class session will be available through links and/or electronic files. During the course, I will send weekly emails with announcements, clarifications, and updated assignments, including links and electronic files. We may also use DropBox to access larger files.

Norman J. Vig and Michael E. Kraft,
Environmental Policy: New Directions for the Twenty-First Century
Congressional Quarterly Press (Ninth Edition, 2015) ISBN: 9781483352589
B&N $62.00 (new)/ $56.36 (used)/ $39.49 (Nook)

Christopher Klyza & David Souza,
American Environmental Policy: Beyond Gridlock
MIT Press (2013)
ISBN: 9780262525046
B&N $28.63 (new)/ $21.67 (used)

Please note that access to the latest editions of the Vig book (revised in 2015) and the Klyza book
(revised in 2013) will be necessary.

The CCNY Library has advised me that the Vig book has been placed on reserve and both books are
available to the students as eBooks through CUNY system.

For students who wish to purchase their own copies, I have confirmed that the
books are available through Barnes & Noble, and other sources.


Class Participation: 20%
Team project: 20%
Weekly posts 20%
Final assignment: 40% (presentation and paper: 15 and 25).

Read the posted CCNY memorandum on ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. All assignments must be your original work, including any posts, presentations, powerpoint and research papers.

Course Outline

PART 1 -- Frameworks

Class 1

  • Introductions
  • The “Three Epochs” of American Environmental Policymaking
  • Policy, law, regulation
  • Sustainability and environmental policy

Readings (to be completed before Class 1):

Vig, Chapters 1 and 3

Klyza, Chapters 1 and 2

Class 2

  • The alternative path (+ guest presenter)
  • US Federal Environmental Policy -- processes and institutions
  • The role of states and localities


Klyza, Chapters 6 and 7

Executive Order 13693—Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, Federal Register notice (March 25, 2015).

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on “Sustaining Environmental Capital” (2011).

Memorandum from White House CEQ on incorporating ecosystem services into Federal decision making. (PDF)

Class 3

  • Air/Water/Waste -- team projects are underway!
  • NEPA as a “sustainability statute”


Vig, Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7

EPA, “Citizen’s Guide to NEPA”

Ken Abbott, “Institutionalizing Sustainability across the Federal Government”

Ira Feldman, “Business and Industry: Transition to Sustainability”

Class 4

  • Key global policy frameworks
  • Team meetings


Klyza, Chapters 3 and 5

Kate Raworth, "A Safe and Just Place for Humanity," Oxfam Discussion Paper (2012) (PDF)

Johan Rockstrom, et al., "Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity," 14 Ecology and Society (2009) (webpage)

The UN post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (webpage)

UNFCCC, The Paris Climate Agreement, December 2015 (PDF)

Class 5

  • Air, Water, Waste -- Student presentations by teams
  • Key local policy frameworks -- PlaNYC and OneCity


PlaNYC and OneCity (webpage)

Mafruza Khan, "Transforming Our World: OneNYC, Sustainable Development Goals and the New Economy" (blog post)

PART II -- Mechanisms

Class 6

  • Ecosystem services
  • Sustainable Communities
  • A framework for resilient cities (+ guest presenter)


National Ecosystems Services Partnership, Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook ("FRMES") (webpage)

"A Stronger More Resilient New York," (2013). Please review the section of this report most relevant to your professional interests. (webpage)

Marcus Moench, selected readings (TBA)


…but there is an assignment:

Select one example of a Federal agency that is already implementing ecosystem services from among the following: NOAA, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the Fish & Wildlife Service. These examples can be found at this webpage in right side column under the heading "Introduction to Agency Use."

Class 7

  • Risk assessment/risk management
  • Information-based approaches
  • Analyzing regulatory costs and benefits



Class 8

  • Stakeholder engagement and collaborative governance
  • Economic incentives and market-based approaches


Select one:

Sara Cohen, "Collaborative Approaches to Environmental Decision-Making — A State Agency’s Guide to Effective Dialogue and Stakeholder Engagement — Twelve Case Studies from New England,” MIT-Harvard report.


Terry Yosie and Timothy Herbst, "Using Stakeholder Processes in Environmental Decisionmaking — An Evaluation of Lessons Learned, Key Issues, and Future Challenges,” (1998).

Other readings TBA.

PART III – Special topics in environmental policymaking

Class 9

  • The Challenge of Climate Adaptation
  • Superstorm Sandy response (+ guest presenter)


Select one:

"Bolstering Critical Infrastructure Resilience. After Superstorm Sandy: Lessons for New York and the Nation." (web content)


"Two Years after Superstorm Sandy: Exploring Resilience in Twelve Neighborhoods." (PDF)

And select one:

NY Times Dialogue: "Three Years After Sandy, Are Coastal Communities Safer?" (article)


Center For American Progress, "Lessons from the Storm: Climate Displacement Three Years After Sandy." (article)


Katherine Begley, "Three Years After Sandy, Is New York Prepared for the Next Big Storm?" (article)

Class 10

  • Urban Ecosystems
  • Green Infrastructure (+ guest presenter)


Select one:

US EPA, "Green Infrastructure Opportunities that Arise During Municipal Operations,” (January 2015).


Josh Foster, et al., "The Value of Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Adaptation,” CCAP report, (February 2011).

And select one:

Diana Hogan, et al., "Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision Making for a Green Philadelphia — A symposium organized by the Spatial Integration Laboratory for Urban Systems — A Wharton School/USGS Collaborative, cosponsored by the Penn Institute for Urban Research.”


Erik Gómez-Baggethun, et al., "Chapter 4 (draft) — Urban ecosystem services.”

Class 11

  • Corporate sustainability and policy (+ guest presenter)
  • Financial sector and ESG metrics


Peter Soyka, selected readings (TBA)

John Wood, selected readings (TBA)

Class 12

  • Public-private partnerships
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)


Kent Rowey, "Public-Private Partnerships Could be a Lifeline for Cities" (article)

Cate Long, "DealBook's questionable argument on privatization" (blog post)

Donald Cohen and Stephanie Farmer, "Why Chicago's Botched Parking Meter Privatization is also Bad for the Environment" (article)

NO CLASS – Thanksgiving

Class 13

  • Individual and household level policy (+ guest presenter)


Jason Czarnezki, Everyday Environmentalism (selected chapters TBA)

Class 14

  • The holiday festival of student presentations!

Final papers must be submitted at least one week before grades are due! TBA