"It Happened Behind Closed Doors:" Legislative Buffering as an Informal Mechanism of Political Mediation

In Mobilization: An International Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 3

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The political mediation model explains movement policy outcomes ranging from complete failure to total success. However, the qualitative mechanisms through which political mediation occurs empirically remain understudied, especially as they relate to the content-specifying stages of the legislative process. Furthermore, while we know that political mediation is context-dependent, key elements of what political context entails remain underspecified. This article addresses these gaps by tracing the influence of a coalition of social movement organizations (SMOs) seeking to simultaneously shape the content of two major climate bills in a progressive U.S. state where the climate movement enjoys a relatively favorable political context overall. Comparing the divergent trajectories and outcomes of the two bills illuminates the process of legislative buffering, which is conceptualized as an informal mechanism of political mediation. The comparative analysis also reveals situational elements of political context that can present additional hurdles movements must overcome to maximize their success.

Coalitions That Clash: California's Climate Leadership and the Perpetuation of Environmental Inequality

Forthcoming In Research in Political Sociology, Volume 28

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At a time when the U.S. federal government refuses to act on climate change, much has been made of California's success as a leader in subnational climate policy. However, as we show in this article, California's landmark climate law divided, rather than unified, the state's environmental movement. In this article, we document the protracted political conflict between the state's environmental justice-oriented movement, on the one hand, and a coalition of market-oriented environmental organizations, private corporations, and state actors, on the other. While the justice-oriented movement emphasized command-and-control regulations that they argued would allow the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also addressing local pollution and reducing environmental inequality within the state, the market-oriented coalition conditioned its support on a market-based mechanism for achieving statewide emissions reductions. Drawing on legislative and regulatory texts, archival material, and policy-focused interviews with the full range of political actors with a stake in this conflict over how the state's climate policies would ultimately be designed, we trace the policy preferences and influence of both the justice-oriented movement and the market-oriented coalition over time. We argue that while the state's landmark climate policy has largely conformed to the preferences of the market-oriented coalition, the political influence of the justice-oriented movement is currently on the rise. Our analysis sheds light on structural inequalities in the policymaking process as well as contributes to our understanding of coalition-building between social movements and non-movement actors.

California Cap-and-Trade: History, Design, Effectiveness

Forthcoming in Contesting Carbon, William G. Holt (editor). Routledge.

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In this chapter, I discuss the political history of the nation's most comprehensive cap-and-trade program, a regulatory effort of the California Air Resources Board, which was authorized by AB 32, the state's landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction law. After discussing the unusual political circumstances in which the Program came about, I delve into its complex design and also provide a preliminary analysis of its effectiveness.

How Investor-Owned Utilities Can Be Induced to Support Reforms to Mitigate Climate Change

Scholars Strategy Network Basic Facts Policy Brief

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Private (investor-owned) utility companies are often assumed to be part of the "fossil fuel industry." But in some states, they have been powerful allies in support of climate policies. In this policy brief, I discuss how those states have managed to incentivize these companies to support, rather than block, their climate change mitigation efforts.

Additional information on all of my publications and manuscripts-in-progress can be found on my CV.