2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 710, 2004)
Paper No. 90-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


MCCURDY, Karen M., Department of Political Science, Georgia Southern Univ, P.O. Box 8101, 2287 Carroll Building, Statesboro, GA 30460, KMcCurdy@GeorgiaSouthern.edu

American public policy concerning coal fires illustrates the difficulties state and federal governments encounter in addressing apparently straight forward scientific problems. Coal fires exist in complex public policy space and their geographic distribution allows for comparisons between political jurisdictions and public agencies that can be used to better understand policy making decisions.

Land policy is constrained by the historical antecedents of contemporary state governments that have supremacy in land ownership matters. Thus, western lands, where surface, subsurface, and water rights are separable, can produce more complexities than do eastern lands. Furthermore, state-owned land is different from privately held land, which in turn is different from the federal domain. Coal fires, like most natural phenomena, do not honor governmental boundaries. Consequently, the structural complexity of public policy making requires that multiple governmental bodies be involved, minimally federal and state agencies. Increasingly, county and regional authorities are also involved.

Public policy space in the United States is defined by the separated powers federal system, making competition between executive and legislative branches of government possible at both national and state levels. The life cycle of regulatory agencies, which often includes capture by the industry they are intended to oversee, accounts for much of the redundancy in bureaucracy that greatly complicates policy. The differences in the multi-faceted histories of state land ownership patterns; state political cultures; and the dates of creation of state agencies and their patterns of hiring and professional development all interact with the separated powers federal system.

Domestic coal fires generate numerous policy experiments in the laboratories of federalism, while eluding the consensus prerequisite to a coordinated national policy. International policy space is complicated further by issues of sovereignty and ineffectiveness of treaties requiring economic restraint by both post-industrial and developing nations.

2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 710, 2004)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 90--Booth# 83
Wild Coal Fires: Burning Questions With Global Consequences? (Posters)
Colorado Convention Center: Exhibit Hall
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Monday, 8 November 2004

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 36, No. 5, p. 226

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