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New Center Focuses on Effective Environmental Governance

By Maralee Csellar


Executive-in-residence in DPAP Daniel Fiorino

This summer’s Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Three Mile Island disaster, and the cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, are dramatic events that drew attention to environmental issues which galvanized people to address the issue after it occurred. Instead of waiting until the next crisis to resolve potential environmental issues, the new Center for Environmental Policy at American University aims to evaluate and improve the capacity for the United States to address environmental challenges through effective governance.

“Our focus is on environmental governance,” said Dan Fiorino, the inaugural director of the Center for Environmental Policy. “We’re not a hardcore scientific organization, and we’re not purely an economic organization. We’re focusing on how we as a society make different decisions, how we engage different people, how we use information. I’m hoping that we will be able to identify issues or areas of policy where we can have constructive dialogue.”

In order to meet the environmental challenges of the coming decades, make the right policy choices, and seize the opportunities that will develop, worldwide government, business, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations must avoid zero-sum thinking.

“Sustainability is a word we hear more and more these days,” said Fiorino. “The idea of sustainability is that as a society we face a lot of social and political choices. We want to define issues and options and bring different perspectives together to find opportunities for achieving our economic goals in ways that protect environmental quality, preserve resources, and improve the quality of life.”

The center, which launched this fall, will sponsor programs for sharing information, perspectives, and experience in addition to allowing guests to conduct analysis and research on how the nation may more effectively address environmental challenges on national and regional levels. The center’s work focuses on three areas of environmental policy: environmental innovation, partnerships and collaboration, and new and emerging problems.

Fiorino joined American University’s School of Public Affairs after a 31 year career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he was actively involved in EPA’s policy analysis, innovation, and partnership programs. Fiorino has published widely on environmental policy, regulatory innovation, and sustainability and brings a practical and an academic perspective to the Center’s work. Fiorino is an expert in:

  • U.S. environmental politics and policy making in environmental regulation
  • government greening
  • EPA and state environmental agencies
  • Corporate environmental leadership
  • Air and water pollution issues
  • Voluntary programs for environmental protection
  • Smart growth, local environmental sustainability  

Robert Durant, chair of the department of public administration and policy, helped conceive and develop the center’s mission and purpose. Durant is an expert in environmental and natural resources policy issues having written extensively on the subject including Environmental Governance Reconsidered: Challenges, Choices, and Opportunities; and The Greening of the U.S. Military: Environmental Policy, National Security, and Organizational Change.