Texas environmental leadership.
These are not words–or concepts–that one anticipates finding together these days.
But no… this is not a headline from the Onion.
It’s real. It’s important. And it may hold lessons for the new world of 21st century leadership.
Don’t Mess With Texas
The Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s powerful oil and gas regulatory authority, has issued new well construction requirements, including provisions for “fracking,” also known as hydraulic fracturing.
The Texas regulations have been generally well-received.
At a time when the federal government’s environmental policies have been stymied or incoherent, states and localities are taking action.
Texas, to be sure, has often been seen as at odds with federal environmental policies in areas such as clean air regulation.
What’s striking here is that objective observers agree that Texas is leading the environmental charge on fracking regulation, a matter of national, indeed international importance.
A New States Rights Model
In the Civil Rights era, assertions of “states rights” and state sovereignty were linked to resistance to progress and justice.
Today, in our ever more connected world, decentralized decision-making need not denote–or connote–lower standards. It may well result in greater progress.
The Texas fracking example illustrates this in several ways:
–Texas is headquarters to many national and international energy companies. They have an interest in demonstrating that fracking regulation can be achieved effectively and rapidly. Ideally, regulations can be exported to other jurisdictions, speeding the process and removing business friction across the US and around the world.
–Stakeholders such as environmental advocacy groups, labor unions, and government agencies can monitor and influence regulatory processes anywhere in the world. The days when decentralized decisions could be hidden in remote areas are long gone. Far better to do things right from the start.
–Centralized decision making from Washington is increasingly problematic. The federal role of mid- and late-twentieth century is long overdue for updating. The empowerment of individuals and organizations at ever lower levels renders centralized decisions more difficult to reach. And the results may represent less marginal value. There is a need for a federal role, just a different one for a new century.
What About You?
What do you think about the ongoing evolution of federalism? Is the notion of “states rights” ripe for reconsideration? Are we in some ways heading back to the future, with the relative role of states rising? What are the implications?
Is decentralization consistent with progress in our age of involuntary transparency, combined with near universal access to information and the capacity to publish it?
What are you doing to increase your effectiveness–and that of the organizations you serve–in these new circumstances?
What are the implications for federal leadership? For the relative roles of government, business, and NGOs?
Texas Environmental Leadership