Taylor & Francis Group

Informing or Empowering? Disclosure in the United States and the Netherlands

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This paper studies the emergence of one particular 'new' environmental policy instrument: disclosure of emission and pollution data. Disclosure is part of a relatively new sub-set of regulatory measures, based on monitoring, transparency, citizen-empowerment and accountability. It originated in the United States but has recently attracted international attention. The attractiveness of disclosure is obvious; it promises environmental improvement combined with strengthened environmental democracy and community empowerment. By analysing the experiences in the US, and the developments in the Netherlands, this paper seeks to assess the functioning and effectiveness of disclosure. The available empirical evidence suggests that disclosure has a positive impact on the environmental performance of industrial facilities as well as a democratising effect. It is argued that Dutch policy makers wrongfully assume that disclosure cannot work in the Netherlands. The consequence is that citizens are provided with little specific information that cannot be used to put pressure on polluters.

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