Participation and Power

Civic Discourse in Environmental Policy Decisions

By W. Michele Simmons

Subjects: Technical Communication, Environmental Studies, Communication, Composition And Rhetoric Studies
Series: SUNY series, Studies in Scientific and Technical Communication
Paperback : 9780791469965, 214 pages, January 2008
Hardcover : 9780791469958, 214 pages, February 2007

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Table of contents

Figures and Tables

1. Citizens, Institutions, and the Construction of Environmental Policy

2. Citizens Involved: Mapping Public Participation and Power in Risk Communication Practices
3. A Case of Institutional Power: Public Participation Decisions about VX Nerve Agent Disposal at the Newport Chemical Depot

4. Toward a Participatory Approach to Decision Making: Creating a Space for Public Discourse in Technical Issues

5. Participation and Power: Transforming the Possibilities of Public Participation in Environmental Policy Decisions

6. Toward a Just and Participatory Environment: Civic Research in/from the Academy

Epilogue: Heightened National Security and Public Participation

Appendix A:  Public Notice Sample
Appendix B:  Sample of Comments Section from Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Appendix C:  Sample of Comments Section from Final Environmental Impact Statement
Appendix D:  Sample of Comments Section from IDEM Notice of Decision
Appendix E:  House Enrolled Act No. 1143
Appendix F:  Questions and Answers about the Newport Chemical Depot


Takes a firsthand look at a case of public participation in environmental policy.


Participation and Power examines the ways in which citizens are allowed to participate in environmental policy decision making. Despite requirements that mandate public participation, institutional practices and current models of public participation often exclude citizens from anything other than a superficial role. W. Michele Simmons offers a firsthand look at risk communication and public participation practices through a case study involving the disposal of VX nerve agent. Arguing that a rhetoric for civic discourse in policy debates is needed, she constructs a theory of democratic and ethical public involvement that grants citizens more power in the decision-making process.

W. Michele Simmons is Assistant Professor of English at Miami University in Ohio.


"Simmons forges a strong claim for the greater value and potential of meaningful dialogue in risk communication." — Bill Karis, coeditor of Technical Communication, Deliberative Rhetoric, and Environmental Discourse: Connections and Directions

"Not only is the problem of risk communication relevant, but the use of both rhetorical and technical communication theory makes the approach to the problems in risk communication seem solvable. Further, the question of actual public participation in risk communication should be of interest to scholars and practitioners beyond the immediate field of technical and scientific communication." — Robert R. Johnson, author of User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts