Ethics, Science and Environmental Regulation

Environmental Ethics 9 (4):331-349 (1987)
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Because complex environmental problems are relegated to scientific experts, the ethical questions that are embedded in these problems are often hidden or distorted in scientific and administrative methodology and communication. The administrative process requires that facts and values be separated. Those values that cannot simply be ignored are usually translated into technical economic language and settled in terms of economic costs and benefits. Calls for regulatory reform-i.e., to reduce or eliminate environmental regulation--create additional pressures on analysts that encourage them to focus on quantitative questions at the expense of qualitative ones. Distortion can also result from the use of standard risk assessment procedures and from the improper placement of burden of proof on govemment agencies. The greatest problem, nevertheless, is the narrow scientific training of technical experts which frequently leaves them unprepared to deal with the ethical and value issues in environmental public policy.



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