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The purposes here are to explain the linkage of (1) economic methodology, (2) corporate networks, and (3) federal court decisions in the licensing of hazardous waste facilities and to recognize the opportunity the combination of the three provides for institutional economists. The United States has the best and most comprehensive set of laws we might expect from a legislative process in order to prevent human disease, loss of property, and ecological system destruction from hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste. Yet the licensing process and assessment that has grown out of that legislation has not produced the protection expected. The waste disposal problem continues to grow.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 is another achievement of the “Greatest Generation.” It was the world’s first environmental policy of such proportion, and it became a model for environmental policies and legislation in nations around the globe for protecting the environment (see Colombo 1992). Consistent with institutionalism, NEPA has been called “an organic act for environmental protection” (Ringquist 1999, 88). The approximately 50,000 NEPA environmental assessments prepared annually are an indication that the influence NEPA is to have on comprehensive planning is intended to be pervasive.
The principal tools of NEPA for assessing impacts and planning actions are the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the environmental impact statement (EIS). The purpose of the EIA is to ensure that appropriate attention is given to environmental issues. It is to provide adequate information on projects such as waste disposal projects that affect the environment. “All environmentally relevant impacts of such activities should be identified, analyzed and evaluated before consent is given” (Colombo 1992, 1). In addition to analytical information, the EIA includes scoping, consultation of other authorities, and public participation. An EIS is prepared to investigate environmental consequences of alternatives for pursuing a proposed project and must be used by decision makers in reaching a final decision. The EIS is to include the environmental impact of the proposed action, any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided, and any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which might be involved in the proposed action (Eccleston 2001, 9).