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Public Goods v. Private Rights: Analyzing Government Inefficiencies in Environmental Protection

Watkins, Shannon Lea (2009) Public Goods v. Private Rights: Analyzing Government Inefficiencies in Environmental Protection. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this project, I describe the intergenerational nature of environmental public goods, and argue that the Supreme Court's inconsistent doctrine of legal standing is as an obstacle to the enforcement of environmental laws that provide these public goods. Public goods are goods that do not diminish as they are used or consumed and those that cannot be restricted in who consumes them, such as stable soil, an ecosystem, or clean air. Environmental public goods are particular in that they are intergenerational, meaning their provision is dependent upon consistent and long term commitment. Although Congress has passed numerous statutes that protect environmental goods, the executing agencies are often unmotivated or unable to uphold these laws and provide these goods. Though the courts offer a way for citizens to become involved in ensuring the consistency of an agency's official commitment, the Supreme Court's application of the standing doctrine poses three challenges to external actors seeking legal review. An institutional difference between the private nature of the Court and the public nature of environmental legislation explains the challenges groups have in demonstrating standing under environmental protection laws. These challenges are made increasingly difficult as the Court inconsistently applies this doctrine to limit access to rigorously demonstrated injuries felt by only a minority of the population. Finally, this paper proposes that by changing the definition of the injury or the injured, Congress can reconcile this public-private tension in a way that ensures access to the courts while meeting the Court's standing requirements.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Watkins, Shannon
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVictor, Jennifer
Committee MemberCollins,
Committee MemberBilakovics,
Committee MemberLowry,
Date: 17 August 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 16 July 2009
Approval Date: 17 August 2009
Submission Date: 3 August 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: citizen suit provisions; collective action; tragedy of the commons
Other ID:, etd-08032009-162223
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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