Chung-Lin Chen


Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is used by most countries and is widely recognized as an important instrument for infusing sustainable development considerations into governmental decision-making. However, studies show that EIA often falls short of that goal. This article explores the design and operation of EIA through the lens of comparative institutional analysis. It examines the pros and cons of various governmental institutions charged with implementing EIA, uses a case study of Taiwan to demonstrate the validity of this analytical framework, and provides suggestions for future practices and legal reforms. This article proposes that the core problem that EIA is meant to address is minoritarian bias—the highly disproportionate representation of the interests of developmental interest groups in political processes, as opposed to the interests of the general public and future generations. To adequately counteract this political malfunction, this article argues for improvements to EIA systems that enhance public participation, reinforce expert governance, and heighten judicial scrutiny. Among these, the judiciary plays the most profound institutional role. Where minoritarian bias is prominent in EIA proceedings, courts should strictly review, rather than submissively defer to, EIA judgments and developmental decisions.



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