Information Exchange: Publications

Connectivity and Consistency of Environmental Decision Tools for Community Planning

Author: Rae Zimmerman

Sector: Energy

November 9-12, 2006. R. Zimmerman, Presentation at Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) 2006 Annual Conference, Fort Worth, TX. Environmental planning, impact assessment, environmental health risk assessment, and other environmental analytical techniques are often used as distinct and separate methodologies for environmental decision-making about siting, catastrophic events, and other environmental problems, since these techniques have had separate origins and mandates, traditions and protocols. As a result, the decision tools that enable communities to use environmental data for decision-making in planning frameworks are very varied, and often lack cohesiveness. These tools range from formal techniques in environmental impact assessment (Jain et. al. 2002), risk analysis (National Research Council 1994), and multi-attribute decision analysis to more applied techniques focusing on stakeholder processes. Some of the stakeholder-based processes emphasize how communities can engage in various methods to balance completing stakeholder preferences, based on approaches such as collaboration, cooperation, consensus building (Godschalk et al. 1994), conflict resolution (Bingham 1987), bargaining and negotiation. Finally, some decision tools or aids emphasize the means of combining data incorporating a spatial dimension for the purpose of analysis and decision-making, and one such approach involves the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The central theme of this paper is to identify the interfaces among these various techniques to support a common framework that enables these tools to be used together for environmental decisions.
The approach is first to formulate criteria to define common elements or components of each of the methods, such as the grain or level of spatial detail, inputs, outputs, and level of scientific uncertainty, in order to determine how the tools can interconnect. Second, the concept of combining disparate approaches for a consistent approach is applied to environmental planning needs of the South Bronx, NY so that combinations of useful tools can enable the South Bronx community to evaluate options more systematically against current conditions and plans. Applicability to generic environmental problems is also discussed for transferability to other areas and environmental problems. Education and communication strategies are also presented to transfer the decision-making skills to the community, particularly about environmental risk (Stern and Fineberg, eds., 1996). Understanding how to communicate information about environmental technologies and risks is an important foundation for informed decision-making by communities. This abstract is drawn from the scope of work developed by the NYU-Wagner Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems for a research project, South Bronx Environmental Health and Policy Project (Phase IV), funded with a Congressional Appropriation sponsored by Congressman Jose E. Serrano and administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The most recent project report is for Phase II and III located at This work is also funded through the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at the University of Southern California under grant number N00014-05-0630. NYU, South Bronx project; USC-CREATE.

Date Created: November 2006; Date Posted: November 2006






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