Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Robert Howard

Second Advisor

Amy Steigerwalt

Third Advisor

Michael Fix

Fourth Advisor

David Nixon


As polarization and deregulation efforts have largely stagnated environmental policy development at the federal level, the significance of local and state policymaking has increased dramatically in recent years. However, scholarly research has been slow to examine the causes, effects, and significance of this policy trend, and does not presently account for the effect and efforts of local governments and interest groups on the development sustainable waste policies. Thus, the literature currently offers little direction as to 1) what prompts individual cities to promote progressive environmental policies and 2) why states have begun to preempt (nullify) environmental policies instituted at local/municipal levels with increasing frequency. I address these gaps by presenting and testing a theory focusing on strategic interest groups applied to local sustainable waste policies (specifically, local regulations regarding emissions, plastic, and organic waste). I argue that cities will be more likely to pass environmental regulations in response to the activity from locally active environmental groups. From here, states will be most likely to preempt these policies when pressured by the American Legislative Exchange Council and have more conservative state legislatures. Drawing from a series of statistical models, I suggest that locally based interest groups are integral to urban environmental policy development, and preemption is a strategy used by industry-related special interests to circumvent regulation through legislators sympathetic to free market principles.


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