The Regulatory Landscape of Mercury Management in the Northeastern United States
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This research assesses the regulatory landscape of mercury management in the northeastern United States through the examination of state-level environmental management programs in twenty northeastern states. Previous research regarding mercury in the environment primarily focuses on emission, transport, and deposition of mercury, and human health impacts. This research seeks to fill the gap in mercury research addressing environmental regulations and management strategies. The study of an environmental toxin through the lens of a regulatory landscape offers a geographic understanding of management actions across the region. Distinct geographic patterns of regulation are evident across the region. Within the study area a variety of regulatory landscapes are present. The New England region demonstrates the most comprehensive regulatory landscapes, the Great Lakes region is inconsistent, and the southern portion of the study area is highly fragmented. These patterns illustrate a wide variance in issue-salience, state-level funding, and management approaches toward mercury in the environment. This variance is the result of differences in state-level environmental management approaches magnified by a lack of federal directives on addressing mercury as an environmental pollutant. Certain states are defining their own regulatory landscape in the absence of federal action by regulating mercury in the waste stream, water discharges, and atmospheric sources of mercury emissions. Other states are more passive, awaiting federal action to adopt an existing regulatory landscape rather than creating their own.