Subnational governments play a crucial role in virtually every area of U.S. environmental policy. Scholarship on the role of federalism and state governments can be broken into several broad categories of theoretical concern, including vertical federalism, horizontal federalism, the “greenness” of state environmental policy, the adoption and diffusion of individual policies, policy evaluation, and environmental politics. Assessment of temporal patterns in a dataset of environmental policy scholarship over the last 30 years suggests that in the aggregate scholars are moving away from focusing on vertical federalism and state “greenness,” and are placing increasing emphasis on policy adoption and environmental politics. Although the current state of the field is robust, several challenges remain, including the need to create new high-quality panel datasets, develop a more theoretically grounded understanding of what leads states to establish stringent or innovative environmental programs, and produce more research that rigorously evaluates the effects of environmental policies.
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