Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Natasha Affolder]

Published In

University of British Columbia Law Review

Document Type


Publication Date



large projects, environmental regulation, responsive regulation, regulatory networks, environmental law methodologies


Large-scale natural resource and infrastructure projects create some of the most challenging and high-stakes contexts for environmental regulation. Witness the heated debates surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline project. But to date, large projects have attracted relatively little sustained interest from scholars of environmental law and regulation. Case studies stand alone as valuable empirical accounts of individual pipelines, dams, and mining projects. But synthesis of these case studies is lacking. A workshop that celebrates the approaching 20th year anniversary of Ian Ayres’ and John Braithwaite’s 1992 book, Responsive Regulation, provides an opportune moment to reflect on this lacuna in environmental regulatory research. This article tackles the question: “why study large projects?” It provides a preliminary mapping of existing scholarship on the environmental aspects of large project regulation. It then turns to consider the methodological challenges of developing research from which theoretically-informed meta-analysis can emerge. In so doing, the article argues that large projects provide a valuable research site for understanding some of the newer aspects of responsive regulatory theory, including the networking of pyramidal actors and the interaction of regulatory approaches.



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