At the ASNA 2009 Applications of Social Network Analysis conference, Professor Avi Gottlieb & Professor Dorit Kerret of Tel Aviv University gave a paper entitled Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs): A Case Study of Environmental Policy Networks. Here is the abstract:
“Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) are web-based public-access environmental information systems on industrial emissions of pollutants, anchored in national, regional, and international legislation. PRTRs are employed in over 30 countries, on the premise that the environmental authorities, together with other social agents such as the media, non-governmental organizations and the public, will use the PRTR in various ways, thereby increasing the pressure on polluting industries to improve their environmental performance.
“The popularity of PRTRs is part of a striking shift in social and especially environmental policy during the last decades. Many studies depict a transition from hierarchical policy systems, where the state is the sole regulator, to reflexive, networked, and cooperative arrangements that engage different interests groups in the regulatory process and in policy-making, and embrace innovative policy tools such as self-regulation and voluntary compliance.
“This shift toward more reflexive policy-making encourages the networking and interactions of the above-mentioned social agents and interest groups, increases their participation in the policy process and their influence on policy-making and on the setting of policy goals and policy tools – depending on their resources, social power and location in these networks. The actions and interactions of these social agents are empirical manifestations, in situ so to speak, of the environmental policy networks that determine if, how and to what effect the PRTR is used as a policy instrument.
“Recent studies evince considerable variations between countries in the effects of PRTRs on industrial emissions. We hypothesize that these unexplained differences are the product of different national environmental regimes (on a continuum from hierarchical to reflexive), which in turn shape the form of the relevant policy networks and the way their members interact, and ultimately policy outcomes.
“This paper reports findings from a cross-nationally comparative study of the use of PRTRs in three countries with substantially different environmental regimes. Samples of environmental administrators in both the environmental authorities and industry were polled in a web-based survey about environmental policies in their countries, the interfaces between government and industry in pollution control issues, and their utilization of the PRTR. The findings support recent evidence that reflexive policy tools such as the PRTR improve environmental performance only in the context of strict regulation and enforcement.”