Date of Award
Master of Arts in Marine Affairs
Understanding environmental threats posed as a byproduct of technology has become an important role for our federal governmental agencies. This study examined environmental hazard assessment in theory and in practice. Discussion established the unique nature of environmental hazard assessment as compared to financial or natural hazard assessment. This first section examined advantages and shortcomings of four methods to judge the tolerability of environmental hazards: Natural Baselines, Risk/Cost/Benefit Analysis, Revealed Preferences, and Expressed Preferences. The differences in perspectives between expert risk assessors and the lay public was highlighted. For the case of ocean incineration of hazardous wastes the dilemma faced by agencies in selecting an assessment process was shown to be partially resolved by agency reaction to interest groups. Several agencies were involved in the assessment process including: The Air Force, the Maritime Administration, three separate branches of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Eight agency hazard assessment reports authored by these agencies were reviewed. A correlation was established between interest groups and hazard perspectives. The balance struck between expert and public hazard perspectives for each of the reports was determined. The major legal, bureaucratic, factual, and political factors influencing the balancing process was observed. The changes in the balance over time was shown to correlate with changes in the relative strength of interest groups. Two additional findings are noted. First, in a real world case example the public placed considerable weight on the role of management in forming its hazard determination for a technology. Second, there was a direct correlation between an agency's distance from the management of a technology and the quality of the balancing done by the agency-as defined by placing weight on both hazard perspectives.
Spadaro, Sally J., "The Dynamic Balance Between Experts and the Public in the Assessment of Hazards: Ocean Incineration - The U.S. Experience" (1988). Theses and Major Papers. Paper 254.