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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1995

Abstract

When a shopping mall developer proposes to build a major new regional mall in an economically depressed area of southeastern Massachusetts, local officials are eager to be helpful. The fact that the 1984 project is technically built on a wetland does not seem to be a major hurdle; the area in question is less than pristine and not well-regarded nor used for recreation. Moreover, the developer has promised "mitigation" measures; it will construct replacement wetland areas. Getting the required permits seems likely. Instead, the concerns of Massachusetts and, ultimately, national environmental groups, force a series of high-level federal reviews of the project. The support of local officials notwithstanding, environmental advocates and federal regulators are concerned that the developer''s mitigation measures will set a dangerous precedent. A review by the regional Environmental Protection Agency administrator kills the project. The case is meant to raise issues both of the ways in which interest group politics affects the regulatory process and about the nature of contemporary American federalism. What are the limits and/or applicability of local land use control in a context of federal standards? Finally, the case provides substantive detail about the nature of wetlands protection law.

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Abstract

When a shopping mall developer proposes to build a major new regional mall in an economically depressed area of southeastern Massachusetts, local officials are eager to be helpful. The fact that the 1984 project is technically built on a wetland does not seem to be a major hurdle; the area in question is less than pristine and not well-regarded nor used for recreation. Moreover, the developer has promised "mitigation" measures; it will construct replacement wetland areas. Getting the required permits seems likely. Instead, the concerns of Massachusetts and, ultimately, national environmental groups, force a series of high-level federal reviews of the project. The support of local officials notwithstanding, environmental advocates and federal regulators are concerned that the developer''s mitigation measures will set a dangerous precedent. A review by the regional Environmental Protection Agency administrator kills the project. The case is meant to raise issues both of the ways in which interest group politics affects the regulatory process and about the nature of contemporary American federalism. What are the limits and/or applicability of local land use control in a context of federal standards? Finally, the case provides substantive detail about the nature of wetlands protection law.

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