Coevolution of Law and Science: A Clean Water Act Case Study

Robert W. Adler – Despite recent political attacks, science is integral to environmental law and other regulatory regimes that are informed by new scientific research. It is inaccurate, however, to view the relationship between law and science as static. Traditionally, science is either seen as a servant of the legal system, responding to and supporting the applicable statutes and regulations; or we expect the legal system to respond or “catch up” to scientific advances. A more useful model, borrowed from evolutionary biology, is coevolution, an ongoing process in which law and science interact over time in an iterative process. A case study from the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) biocriteria program illustrates this dynamic process and suggests ways in which law and science can interact more effectively in the CWA and other regulatory regimes. It also highlights the conceptual difference between “scientific knowledge” and “regulatory knowledge,” and the importance of that […]

Roads to Nowhere in Four States: State and Local Governments in the Atlantic Southeast Facing Sea-Level Rise

Shana Jones, Thomas Ruppert, Erin L. Deady, Heather Payne, J. Scott Pippin, Ling-Yee Huang, and Jason M. Evans – Coastal communities are becoming increasingly aware of the risks to local infrastructure from more frequent and severe flooding, more extreme storm surges, and sea-level rise. As local governments are responsible for the lion’s share of land use decision-making and infrastructure development in coastal communities in the United States, local governments in the coastal zone will play a key role in adapting to the changing climate. Local decision-makers are facing hard questions about whether to build new infrastructure, adapt existing infrastructure to new standards, continue maintaining existing infrastructure as is, or abandon infrastructure altogether. Monroe County, Florida, for example, has begun to factor sea-level rise considerations into decisions related to road improvement projects, creating specific design standards addressing elevation and working to weigh the benefits and costs of different adaptation options such as […]