The democratic capacity of the National Environmental Policy Act: Mining, water and impact in southern Arizona, United States.

Authors: Owen King*, University of the West of England
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Democracy, Mining, Water, EIA, Public Participation, Agonism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The United States National Environmental Policy Act requires the facilitation of public involvement at each stage of the impact assessment process, with federal agencies required to take account of and respond to public concerns over development on public lands. Drawing upon a case study of a proposed copper mine in southern Arizona, this paper offers a perspective on the democratic capacity of such processes. It is argued that the institutional response to public knowledge controversies around water and mining is largely characterised by forms of scientific and legal disavowal and the foreclosure of antagonistic critique. Such responses are overdetermined by a legal-institutional structure in which the development of mineral resources has primacy, in which relationships between state and corporate interests are inadequately regulated, and in which a level of scientific rationalism is consequently reinforced. However, this paper explores how locally-embedded actors, from both inside and outside the institution, are able to influence the trajectory of the impact assessment process through acts of collaboration, contestation, dissent and subversion.

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