Policy Expansion in Local Government Environmental Policy Making

AuthorLe Anh Nguyen Long,Gwen Arnold
Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 465–476. © 2018 The
Authors. Public Administration Review
published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf
of American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12905.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The copyright line for this article was changed
on 12 September 2019 after original online
Policy Expansion in Local Government
Environmental Policy Making
Abstract: Relatively little is known about when, why, and how some jurisdictions “double down” on policy priorities,
rapidly adopting multiple measures tackling the same issue. Rapid policy expansion can emerge in fast-evolving,
uncertain, and contested policy arenas in which pressures for policy making are not satisfied, and even may be
strengthened, by initial policy innovation. This article analyzes local government policy making on high-volume
hydraulic fracturing by New York State municipalities from 2008 to 2012. Policy path dependence, peer influence,
and policy design appear to play a critical role in determining whether public officials respond to these pressures with
policy expansion. Initial policy innovations can open windows for policy participants to secure additional measures
that strengthen or enlarge the scope of action. Public officials and stakeholders seeking particular policy outcomes
should take a long view of the policy process while simultaneously remaining alert for opportunities afforded by
pressurized policy dilemmas.
Evidence for Practice
• When public officials make policy to address pressing environmental challenges, their actions can have
spillover effects, encouraging neighbors to behave similarly.
• Policy design can help lower costs that stakeholders may encounter when seeking to engage in the policy
• Adoption of a policy innovation can open a window for entrepreneurial officials to secure adoption of
additional measures that strengthen or enlarge the scope of action.
• Institutions and capacities that develop around policies may shape subsequent policy making, even in arenas
that are not directly connected.
Gwen Arnold
Le Anh Nguyen Long
University of California, Davis
Le Anh Nguyen Long is a postdoctoral
scholar in the Center for Environmental
Policy and Behavior at the University of
California, Davis. She also teaches in
the Institute of Political Science at the
University of Muenster, Germany. Her
research interests include policy innovation
and diffusion, policy learning, and network
governance in the fields of high-volume
hydraulic fracturing and climate change
E-mail: lnlong@ucdavis.edu
Gwen Arnold is assistant professor
of environmental policy at the University
of California, Davis and codirector of
the Center for Environmental Policy and
Behavior there. She is also affiliated with
Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop
in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.
Her research interests include policy
design, adoption, and diffusion; policy
entrepreneurship; local government
decision making; and high-volume hydraulic
E-mail: gbarnold@ucdavis.edu
Between 2008 and 2012, New York
municipalities passed 358 laws and
resolutions opposing high-volume hydraulic
fracturing (fracking), a controversial, increasingly
widespread technique for mining hydrocarbons
from underground shale. Eventually, local policies
(in conjunction with state limitations) restricted
drilling on more than 60 percent of the state’s shale-
overlaying land, arguably making Governor Andrew
Cuomo’s 2014 decision to ban fracking statewide
fait accompli (Kaplan 2014). What factors drove
this wave of local policy making? And what can
practitioners learn from it?
A notable dimension of this local campaign was
the willingness of 78 municipalities to “double
down” on anti-fracking policy making, passing
multiple measures addressing different dimensions
of the issue. We find that serial adoption built and
sustained the movement’s momentum, creating
positive feedbacks that made a jurisdiction more
likely to adopt additional measures and encouraged
other jurisdictions to act. This phenomenon—policy
expansion, the adoption of two or more topically
similar policy innovations by the same jurisdiction
(Boehmke and Witmer 2004; Tolbert, Mossberger,
and McNeal 2008)—can manifest when policy
dilemmas remain “pressurized” by political conflict,
public contestation, and technical uncertainty. The
New York fracking case is textbook example of a
pressurized policy dilemma (Arnold, Long, and
Gottlieb 2017; Dodge and Lee 2017). So are many
of the “wicked” policy problems faced by officials
in a range of substantive areas, where uncertainty,
dynamism, and value conflicts can result in ongoing
demands for policy action.
Our analysis of New York municipal fracking policy
making demonstrates the critical role that policy
path dependence,1 peer jurisdiction behavior, and
stakeholder access play in determining whether public
officials respond to pressurized dilemmas with policy
expansion. Officials in jurisdictions where past policy
making has established a commitment to particular
Research Article

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT