Vivian E. Thomson

Environmental policy expert Vivian E. Thomson is former Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia, where she was on the faculty from 1997 to 2017 and where she directed the Environmental Thought and Practice BA Program. She has been an air pollution policymaker at the national and state levels in the USA and she has been Distinguished Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Denmark.

  • Climate of Capitulation

    Climate of Capitulation

    An Insider's Account of State Power in a Coal Nation

    Vivian E. Thomson

    How power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level, and how to redress the ingrained favoritism toward coal and electric utilities.

    The United States has pledged to the world community a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025. Because much of this reduction must come from electric utilities, especially coal-fired power plants, coal states will make or break the U.S. commitment to emissions reduction. In Climate of Capitulation, Vivian Thomson offers an insider's account of how power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level. Thomson, a former member of Virginia's State Air Pollution Control Board, identifies a “climate of capitulation” in state government—a deeply rooted favoritism toward coal and electric utilities in states' air pollution policies.

    Thomson narrates three cases involving coal and air pollution from her time on the Air Board. She illuminates the overt and covert power struggles surrounding air pollution limits for a coal-fired power plant just across the Potomac from Washington, for a controversial new coal-fired electrical generation plant in coal country, and for coal dust pollution from truck traffic in a country hollow. Thomson links Virginia's climate of capitulation with campaign donations that make legislators politically indebted to coal and electric utility interests, a traditionalistic political culture tending to inertia, and a part-time legislature that depended on outside groups for information and bill drafting. Extending her analysis to fifteen other coal-dependent states, Thomson offers policy reforms aimed at mitigating the ingrained biases toward coal and electric utilities in states' air pollution policy making.

    • Hardcover $30.00