Environmental protection and environmental planning are inevitably contentious for a number of reasons. Environmental legislation and regulation often impose major losses on some parties and deliver large gains to others. Consider shoreline protection. Suppose that protecting a certain stretch of beachfront requires that further residential development be stopped or sharply curtailed. People who already have beachfront properties are winners. Their privacy will be protected and the market value of their houses will rise because no more can be built. Conversely, people who own beach-front property that they can no longer develop are losers (see the case of Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council in Chapter 5). People who would like to buy beachfront houses but cannot do so because no more can be built are also losers.

In many places it is difficult to get a permit to open a marina. This difficulty is understandable because the dredging necessary to keep channels open, spilled fuel, and boat exhausts all damage the marine environment. This situation makes winners out of those who already own a marina because it protects them from the emergence of new competition. People who might like to open marinas are losers. So, too, are boat owners because, with less competition, prices for space at marinas will be higher.

Environmental regulations that mandate additional pollution-control expenditures for a firm will increase that firm's costs and thus decrease its profitability, clearly a loss to its stockholders. In the extreme, the costs of complying with environmental regulations may put the firm out of business, a loss to the stockholders and an even larger loss to the employees. But those same regulations will deliver benefits to firms in the business of making pollution-control equipment. Perhaps production of the product in question will go overseas to a country where environmental protections are weaker, the so-called export of pollution. Any pattern of laws and regulations that delivers gains and losses on a large scale will inevitably produce controversy and provide much employment for attorneys.

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