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Chilling Collaboration: The Federal Advisory Committee Act and Stakeholder Involvement in Environmental Decisionmaking

July 1999

Citation: ELR 10399

Author: Thomas C. Beierle and Rebecca J. Long

Editors' Summary: The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) was designed to control the undue influence of special interests on advisory committees by balancing committee membership, opening committee meetings and minutes to the public, and controlling the number of committees formed. In this Dialogue, the authors evaluate whether FACA has achieved its objective. They begin with a description of advisory committees and the applicability of FACA. Next, they discuss three chilling effects that FACA has had on stakeholder involvement, including procedural barriers, administrative barriers, and "FACA-phobia." The authors then examine FACA's effects on site-specific advisory committees at DOE, the DOD, EPA, and the U.S. Forest Service. Ultimately, the authors conclude that FACA has been successful in doing what it set out to do, but it has failed to change with an evolving environmental regulatory system that includes a greater role for stakeholder collaboration. At the end of the Dialogue, the authors recommend three ways to improve FACA by expanding opportunities for stakeholder involvement: lift the administrative ceiling on advisory committees, clarify applicable regulations and possibly the Act itself, and streamline procedural requirements for forming and operating an advisory committee.

Thomas C. Beierle is a Research Associate in the Center for Risk Management. Resources for the Future. Rebecca Jane Long is a Fiscal and Policy Analyst at the state of California Legislative Analyst's Office and a former intern at Resources for the Future.

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