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Technical innovation is ubiquitous in contemporary society and contributes to its extraordinarily dynamic character. Sometimes these innovations have significant effects on the state of the environment or on human health and they have stimulated efforts to develop second order technologies to ameliorate those effects. The development of the automobile and its impact on life in the United States and throughout the world is an example. The story of modern environmental regulation more generally includes chapters filled with examples of similar efforts to respond to an enormous array of technological advances.

This Article uses a different lens to consider the role of technological innovation. In particular, it considers how technological advances have the potential to shape governance efforts in the compliance realm. The Article demonstrates that such technological advances – especially new and improved monitoring capacity, advances in information dissemination through e-reporting and other techniques, and improved capacity to analyze information – have significant potential to transform governance efforts to promote compliance. Such transformation is likely to affect not only the “how” of compliance promotion, but also the “who.” Technological innovation is likely to contribute to new thinking about the roles key actors can and should play in promoting compliance with legal norms. The Article discusses some of the potential benefits of these types of technological innovation in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ongoing efforts to improve its compliance efforts by taking advantage of emerging technologies. We also identify some of the pitfalls or challenges that agencies such as EPA need to be aware of in opening this emerging bundle of new tools and making use of them to address real-world environmental needs.

GW Paper Series

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2016-47; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-47

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