Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The dynamics of binational environmental regime formation in the North American Great Lakes basin
by Hagen, John O., Jr., Ph.D., Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), 2009, 413; 3359806
Abstract (Summary)

This study examines the development of water pollution management regimes by the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes basin. The analysis of three water pollution crises in the Great Lakes basin shows how jurisdictional differences between the two federal governments and the basin’s state and provincial governments impede the formation and maintenance of pollution management regimes. For each crisis, the degree of public interest and the public framing of the problem are analyzed as independent variables that could potentially overcome the barriers to regime formation caused by federalism.

The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty established a legally binding norm that neither country would pollute water crossing the boundary to the injury of the other, thus creating a weak binational water pollution regime. Three subsequent cases of transboundary water pollution moved Canada and the United States to consider strengthening the binational regime to limit the injury caused by the pollution. In each case, overlapping government jurisdictions in the basin impeded regime strengthening. States and provinces, which controlled resource development, could not legally enter into binding regimes. The two federal governments could legally commit to a stronger regime, but had limited means to assure state and provincial compliance. Further complicating pollution management in the basin, the costs and benefits of an enhanced regime could not be evenly distributed among the different basin governments.

In each crisis, the degree of public interest and the problem as framed by the public influenced government acceptance of potential regimes. Between 1910 and 1930, transboundary water pollution was framed as a public health problem that was characterized by persistent typhoid epidemics. Following World War II, water pollution was framed as an economic problem of balancing the use of the lakes as a sink for pollutants against the use of the lakes as a water source for municipalities and industries. By 1960, water pollution was framed as an environmental problem in which the mere presence of the pollution was intolerable to the public.

The historical analysis across the three cases reveals that in a federal system, all levels of government participate in regimes, with each government using regime institutions not only to address pollution, but to influence the behavior of the other level of government in its own domestic system.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Henrikson, Alan K.
Commitee: Chayes, Antonia H., Moomaw, William R.
School: Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University)
Department: Diplomacy, History, and Politics
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Canadian history, American history, International law, Environmental science
Keywords: Boundary Waters Treaty, Environmental history, Environmental regime, Federalism, Great Lakes, Regime formation, Regime theory, Water pollution
Publication Number: 3359806
ISBN: 978-1-109-22184-8
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