Admissible evidence in environmental cases

Dear all,

The above link is about a recent move in the US to keep out expert opinion from the Env Protection Agency. In India, the best subject experts stay out of the messy system of environment regulation as it is a place for partisan fights rather than reasoned debate.

On the other hand, affected parties are also systematically kept out as environment regulation is a specialised field and gathering evidence in environmental cases could be a complex exercise.

Instead of keeping out specific categories of people from environment regulation and decisions, is it possible to develop guidelines on the nature of evidence admissible in environmental cases?

What could those be? Any precedence or policy on this that you know? Do share.

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I happened to receive an email today announcing a call for scientists and research institutions to make contributions to the UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2015. Part of that call states:

Governments established the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) with the mandate to provide political guidance on sustainable development. They decided that the forum should strengthen the science-policy interface by examining documentation, bringing together diverse information and assessments, including in the form of a Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), building on existing assessments, and enhancing evidence-based decision-making at all levels.

I instantly thought of Manju’s questions about incorporating experts and evidence into environmental regulations! It’s very interesting that at the UN level, there seems to be an effort to include research findings on economic, social, and environmental development into an annual report to policy makers (even while countries like the US are moving in a different direction). I wonder how these research briefs are actually considered by policy makers and whether they have any impact on discussions or decisions. Maybe this UN system will generate lessons on the type of evidence that is needed or most useful for decisions on environmental regulation?

The rest of the announcement can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/globalsdreport/2015/contribute#english

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Thanks very much for pointing us to this @lauragoodwin.

The report is available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/globalsdreport/2015. it will be the basis of discussion end june in New York at the UN headquarters. There are specific chapters on marine ecosystems, economic growth and consumption, countries in ‘special’ situations.

I’d love to know if anyone has had a chance to read the report yet and what their views are. I hope to read it over the next week and will be happy to share my comments with you all. If there’s several of us who have comments and views that are shared here, I’ll be delighted to put it together for an op-ed or blog entry so our collective views can be shared more widely.

warm regards, Manju

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Looking at the admissibility of expert opinions in cases, a landmark case is Daubert v Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 US 579 (1993). (Judgement can be accessed https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/509/579/case.html )

In this case the standards were laid down in admitting the opinions of experts. Broadly it is looked at whether the opinion reflects scientific knowledge, the findings derived by scientific method and if the work amounts to good science. The court also states that submission to scrutiny of the scientific community (through peer review and publication) is considered a component of good science. Essentially the principle that the court relies on is whether an opinion is scientifically valid.

The Bill that is passed that prohibits experts from giving scientific evidence to the EPA, when it involves their area of work is aimed to promote ‘transparency’ and lays down standards as to whose opinion would be unbiased. While the courts rely on principles of good science, isn’t it pertinent that institutions also do the same?

Are there specific standard laid down in other countries in what constitutes good science in environment cases?

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