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Changing the rules: Interest groups and federal environmental rulemaking

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Sara Rinfret
Abstract:
Within the last fifteen years, academics have begun to explore the influence interest groups have on agency rulemaking processes. One area of inquiry in current rulemaking literature examines interest group influence during the proposed and final stages of notice and comment rulemaking. This is usually done through examination of the official rulemaking process, including submitted public comments. The starting point of this dissertation is that this current scholarship on interest group influence during administrative rulemaking is lacking attention to a key time period in the process: the pre- proposal stage. This study helps to fill in a major gap in rulemaking literature by examining how interest groups influence the development of federal environmental rulemaking even before the process enters the notice and comment phase. From a methodological standpoint, measuring interest group influence during such an informal stage is a daunting task, and two studies are not enough to wholly determine the role interest groups play at the pre-proposal stage (see Hoefer and Ferguson, 2007 and Yackee, 2008). This examination adds to this emerging and important literature in that it attempts to identify across two agencies--the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-- whether the influence interest groups exert during this stage shapes the direction of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register . Semi-structured interviews and a content analysis were used to assess stakeholder influence during the pre-proposal stage for five environmental case studies: (1) the USFWS critical habitat designation for Nebraska's Salt Creek Tiger Beetle; (2) the USFWS critical habitat designation for Utah/Arizona Shivwits and Holmgren Milk Vetches; (3) the USFWS delisting of the Northern Rocky Wolf population from the endangered species list; (4) the EPA regulations for locomotive and marine engine emissions; and (5) the EPA standards for renewable fuels. In analyzing these five cases, this dissertation finds strong evidence to support that the frames many stakeholders used during the pre-proposal stage shaped the language of an NPRM, which demonstrates that influence does occur at the pre-proposal stage.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Acknowledgements v Table of Contents vii List of Tables x List of Figures xi PREFACE: An Introduction xii CHAPTER ONE: The Pre-Proposal Stage and Administrative Rulemaking 1 • Background and Literature Review 4 Historical Perspectives of Interest Group Power and Influence 4 Measuring Interest Group Influence 6 Interest Group Influence and Federal Agency Rulemaking 8 Different Approaches to the Examination of Rulemaking and Groups 11 Controversies and New Directions to Analyze Interest Groups 13 • Building a New Framework for Analyzing Interest Group Influence 16 Using Kingdon 16 Using Frame Analysis 23 • Methodology and Research Design 27 Agency and Case Selection 28 Semi-Structured Interviews 29 Coding Analysis Toolkit 31 Limitations of Study 32 CHAPTER TWO: Air and Species: Environmental Case Studies 34 • Rule and Case Study Selection 36 • USFWS and EPA: Histories 39 History of the USFWS 39 History of the EPA 41 Rulemaking Processes 43 USFWS Process 43 EPA Process 46 • The Cases: Unfolding the Stories 49 Is There Enough Habitat? The Salt Creek Tiger Beetle 50 Maintaining the Status Quo - the Shivwits and Holmgren Milk Vetches 54 The Controversial Wolf: Shoot Em' All, Big and Small 57 The Last to Go: Locomotive and Marine Engines 61 Food versus Fuel: Renewable Fuels Standard 64 • Conclusion 66 vn

• CHAPTER THREE: Kingdon and Rulemaking 69 • Kingdon's Agenda Setting Model 70 • Agenda Setting: Environmental Policy and Administrative Rulemaking 72 Environmental Policy and Agenda Setting 72 Rulemaking and Agenda Setting 74 • Data and Methods 77 • USFWS Cases 77 Salt Creek Tiger Beetle 78 Milk Vetches 86 Northern Rocky Wolves 92 • EPA Cases 98 Locomotive and Marine Engines 98 Renewable Fuels Standard 103 • Conclusions 107 CHAPTER FOUR: A Rulemaking Frame Analysis Model 113 Frame Analysis, Environmental Policy and Administrative Rulemaking 114 Environmental Policy and Frame Analysis 116 Gray and Frame Analysis 118 Frame Analysis and Rulemaking 120 Data and Methods 121 Coding Interview Responses 121 Framing Typologies 127 Problem Definition Frames 129 Science Frames 130 Economic Feasibility Frames 131 Contextual Analysis and Influence 132 Frame Analysis and Five Case Studies 133 USFWS Cases 133 Salt Creek Tiger Beetle 134 Frames versus NPRM 137 Milk Vetches 138 Determining Influence 141 Gray Wolf 143 Who is Influential? 147 EPA Cases 150 Locomotive and Marine Engines 151 Influencing the Pre-Proposal Stage 154 Renewable Fuels Standard 156 Influence 159 Conclusion 161 vni

CHAPTER FIVE: Changing the Rules: Interest Groups and the Pre-proposal Stage 165 • Implications for Administrative Rulemaking 165 What Stage(s) Do Stakeholders Influence 166 Theoretical Implications 168 Frame Analysis and Rulemaking 169 Methodologies to Assess Interest Group Influence 171 • Future Research Paths 172 REFERENCES 176 APPENDICES • Appendix A: Rules Under Examination 188 • Appendix B: Stakeholder Interview Questions 189 • Appendix C: Agency Personnel Interview Questions 190 • Appendix D: Codebook 191 • Appendix E: IRB Approval 192 IX

LIST OF TABLES Table 3-1: Cases and Streams Used 78 Table 4-1 Gray's Frames and Definitions 120 Table 4-2 Codes Most Used across USFWS and EPA Cases 123 Table 4-3 Codes Most Used By Interviewee Type across USFWS Cases 125 Table 4-4 Codes Most Used by Interviewee Type across EPA Case 126 Table 4-5: Frames Used across Cases 134 x

LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1-1: Stages of Notice/Comment during Administrative Rulemaking 3

PREFACE: AN INTRODUCTION The political science literature on interest group1 influence in the United States is extensive. However, only within the last fifteen years have academics begun to explore the influence interest groups exert during agency rulemaking processes (Kerwin 1994; Furlong 1997; Golden 1998; West 2005; McKay 2006; Yackee and McKay 2007). The focus of much current rulemaking literature is on interest group influence during the proposed and final stages of rulemaking through examinations of submitted public comments. However, Yackee (2008) and West (2005) both noted that the impact of interest group influence during an earlier stage, the pre-proposal stage, has not been studied. The pre-proposal stage of an agency rule is when informal or ex parte communication takes place between agency personnel and individuals who represent a group. Agencies use this exchange with stakeholders to draft a rule before a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is published in the Federal Register. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine an important aspect of the policymaking process: the pre- proposal stage. This dissertation contends that three concepts can be effectively used to understand the influence interest groups exert during the pre-proposal stage of a federal agency rule: models in the literature on interest groups, agenda setting, and frame analysis. This dissertation argues that the revised applications of these frameworks constitute original scholarship in context of rulemaking literature because, as Yackee (2008) stated, "The decisions completed within rule development stage hold even greater significance because these decisions 1) set the agenda for debate in the proposed rule and, In this dissertation I use interest groups and stakeholders interchangeably. xii

perhaps more importantly, 2) establish and frame the issues likely to be present in the Final Rule" (p. 26). This dissertation attempts to explain that interest group participation during the pre-proposal stage could be an additional access point for influencing policy. Crucially, many of the stakeholders and agency personnel interviewed for this dissertation concluded that the vital moment for influencing administrative rulemaking is in the pre-proposal stage of the process. Unfortunately, within rulemaking literature, scholars have hardly taken notice of influences occurring at this stage. However, research from this dissertation reveals that stakeholder influence during the pre-proposal stage does in fact impact the language of an NPRM. This dissertation is organized into five chapters. Chapter One begins with a brief description of the stages of the rulemaking process. Then, a review of the literature on interest group power, agenda setting, and framing is provided, in order to explain how scholars assess the role of interest groups in influencing administrative rulemaking processes. The methodology section of this chapter describes the research design for this dissertation project. The data and methods section provides a foundation for how later chapters (Chapters Three and Four) analyze interview responses, in order to assess interest group influence during the pre-proposal stage. Chapter Two provides an in-depth overview of the five rules/cases and the two agencies under investigation for this dissertation. This chapter begins with a history of the two agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Then, the USFWS and EPA's rulemaking processes are examined. Lastly, the chapter presents the storylines and stakeholders involved during the pre-proposal stage of the five rulemakings under investigation. xiii

Chapter Three begins analysis of interview responses. The heart of this chapter uses Kingdon's multiple streams model to structure an evaluation of interview responses across the five cases. The application of Kingdon's model to the interview responses reveals that stakeholder influence during the pre-proposal stage of the rulemaking process does shape the language of an NPRM. Chapter Four also analyzes interview responses, but using different methodological and theoretical frameworks than those applied in Chapter Three. Chapter Four uses the University of Pittsburgh's Coding Analysis Toolkit (CAT) to code the interview responses. Gray's (2003) generic analytical frame analysis is utilized as a starting point for the creation of typologies developed from the content analysis of the coded interviews. These typologies are used to present an analysis of stakeholder frames for the five rules under investigation. The assessments of stakeholder frames, in turn, are contextually compared with an NPRM. The contextual comparison ultimately determines if stakeholders that tried to influence the pre-proposal stage of an agency rule were successful in shaping the language for an NPRM. Chapter Five concludes this dissertation, discussing the relevance and strength of this dissertation's hypothesis: If groups involved during the pre-proposal stage of an environmental rule were able to frame the issue(s), thus providing stakeholders with opportunities to influence the language of an NPRM. In this chapter I also discuss the importance of studying all steps of the rulemaking process, instead of focusing on only later stages, because interest group influence begins at the pre-proposal stage. Lastly, I suggest that the findings from this dissertation have many implications for future research. For example, results from this dissertation, the data for which was gathered xiv

during George W. Bush's administration, could be compared with rules developed during Barack Obama's administration in order to continue our understanding of interest group influence during the pre-proposal stage of the rulemaking process. xv

CHAPTER ONE: THE PRE-PROPOSAL STAGE AND ADMINISTRATIVE RULEMAKING The administrative rulemaking process includes many stages and access points for both stakeholders and the public to participate. This chapter begins with a brief historical overview of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and how stakeholders can influence the notice/comment rulemaking processes. Then, a review of literature examines how scholars in political science and public administration have analyzed interest group influence during different stages of policymaking. The concluding sections of this chapter describe the theoretical frameworks and research design used in this dissertation in order to better understand how interest group influence during the pre- proposal stage of the administrative rulemaking process impacts the direction of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The Administrative Procedures Act was adopted in 1946 as an oversight and accountability tool for the rapidly expanding government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. The Administrative Procedures Act requires agencies to follow its administrative rulemaking guidelines so that government entities could carry out congressional statutes through the creation of rules. According to the APA, a rule "means the whole or part of an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy" (APA Section 551). A rule created by an agency could then carry the same legal force as a law. Administrative rulemaking consists of the stages or processes by which an agency creates and implements a rule. The description of the rulemaking stages below identifies that the 1

APA requirement of public participation during the notice/comment portion of the rulemaking processes allows for significant public involvement in policymaking. There are many forms of administrative rulemaking: formal, informal, negotiated, and hybrid. Formal rulemaking demands official hearings that resemble the proceedings of a courtroom. Informal rulemaking, also known as "notice and comment," requires that agencies encourage the public to participate in the process by submitting comments once an NPRM is published in the Federal Register. Negotiated rulemaking (sometimes informally referred to as "reg neg") occurs when agency officials organize and participate in negotiations with stakeholders to develop a rule. Hybrid rulemaking, in comparison, happens relatively infrequently, and involves agencies using both informal and formal processes (Cooper, 2007). In addition to the different forms of administrative rulemaking, there are three types of rules: substantive or legislative, procedural, and interpretive. According to Cooper, substantive or legislative rules "are those rules, described in the definition of the rule in Section 551(4) of the APA, that "implement.. .or prescribe law or policy" (Cooper 2007, p. 145). Legislative or substantive rules are legally binding. In comparison, non- legislative rules, often called procedural rules, represent non-binding recommendations or advice—such as policy statements made by an agency on a particular issue—that describe the organization, procedure, or practice requirements of an agency. Similarly, interpretive rules are statements issued by agencies that present an agency understands of a rule's meaning, and these do not carry the force of law (Cooper, 2007). 2

In order to clarify later discussions of current rulemaking literature examining interest group influence, Figure 1-1 (below) depicts the common textbook stages of the process for notice/comment rulemaking and substantive rules. Figure 1-1: Stages of Notice/Comment during Administrative Rulemaking Stage 1: Pre-Proposal Stage Stage 2: Notice and Comment Period Informal Communication Between (Possible NPRM • Final Agency and Stakeholders Occurs ANPRM) Published and Rule Comments Analyzed Source: Yackee (2008), modified by author The pre-proposal phase (Stage 1) is where informal communication occurs between stakeholders and agency personnel. These informal interactions lead to Stage 2. A possible step (agency does not have to incorporate) in Stage 2 is an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). Yackee (2008) stated that, "In this stage, agency officials gather the necessary information, and then decide which stipulations and requirements to include (or not to include) in the proposed rule. After settling on the content of the draft, agencies publicly announce the proposed rule in the Federal Register" (p. 12). After a rule is drafted, an agency publishes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. The public and interest groups are given thirty to sixty days to submit comments on the rule. After the comment period ends, agency personnel review the comments to determine the language and substance of the final rule and publish it in the Federal Register. 3

Background and Literature Review The review of rulemaking literature in this section demonstrates that existing scholarship generally focuses on later stages of the notice/comment rulemaking process, and typically analyzes whether comments submitted by the public and interest groups' influence changes the language or the agency's course of action as the rule moves from the proposed stage to the final stage. The central question here is whether or not influence matters during agency rulemaking, and if it does, then at what stage in the process is it most powerful. Before examining this question, one must explore how political scientists understand the role of interest groups in the United States. Since the 1950s and 1960s, investigating the role of interest groups in a democratic society has been a dominant area of research for political scientists. Many academics have used Truman's (1951) definition of interest groups: an interest group forms when persons unite on the basis of one or more shared attitudes or beliefs. As a result, individuals band together to protect their own interests, making certain claims upon other groups in society in order to influence policymaking. The question here is whether past and present scholarship and the application of theoretical frameworks can reveal the role interest groups play in the stages of agency rulemaking, in addition to legislative policymaking. Historical Perspectives of Interest Group Power and Influence One prevalent issue in the literature that rulemaking scholars have studied is an attempt to determine if interest groups compete in an equitable manner. Beginning with research from scholars such as Mills (1956) and Hunter (1953), one argument, the elitist argument, posits that only a select few, the elite, have the power to influence 4

policymaking in a democratic society. However, post-war American pluralism countered the elitist perspective. Scholars such as Truman (1951) and Robert Dahl (1961) contended that all persons in the U.S. have equal power to influence decisionmaking. Many academics, including Mancur Olson (1965) and Lindblom (1977) criticized the pluralist framework, asserting that business-oriented groups possessed a significant advantage due to their comparably greater access to resources. Olson argued that groups with many members seeking only collective benefits are at a disadvantage because they are unlikely to unite. Lindblom claimed that undue influence by businesses was due to their ability to "punish" governments with disinvestment. Bachrach and Baratz (1962) criticized the pluralist and elitist perspectives of interest group power. These scholars claimed that Dahl's assumption that all persons have equal access to policymaking was naive at best. Instead, Bachrach and Baratz argued that the elitist and pluralist approaches only recognized those who had the power to make decisions, without considering the power of non-decisionmaking. Non- decisionmaking occurs when those in power make a conscious choice to avoid a given topic or to table policy discussions. Non-decisionmaking persons or groups could favor one group over another just as concretely as decisionmakers. The pluralist and elitist frameworks are indeed beneficial for rulemaking studies. Using such aforementioned theories to examine rulemaking, some scholars (Golden 1998; Yackee 2006; McKay and Yackee 2007) have argued that even though agencies are required by the APA to receive public input during notice/comment rulemaking, business groups dominate the process because they have greater financial resources. 5

Scholars also utilized the iron triangle framework to describe policymaking relationships among and between the legislature, bureaucracy, and interest groups. In this model, agencies are held captive to their clientele (Bernstein, 1955). As Duffy stated, "The typical iron triangle consists of three parts: the organized groups interested in a particular policy, the congressional committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction of the issue, and the executive agency bureaucrats responsible for that policy" (Duffy 2003, p. 19). He applies this conceptualization to the field of environmental policy. For example, Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen contended that throughout American history, organized private industry groups have persuaded federal bureaucrats and congressional members to promote industry interests as long they received something in return (Schlickeisen, 2003). Heclo (1978) critiqued the iron triangle theory because it does not accurately portray the interactions of interest groups, Congress, and bureaucracy. He stated that issue networks are "shared knowledge groups that tie together large numbers of participants with common technical expertise" (Heclo 1978). Golden (1998) reiterated Heclo's findings in her analysis of agency rulemaking. She noted that the rulemaking process is characterized by issue networks with a large number of participants rather than a small number of iron triangles; a focus on this process is needed to enhance our understanding of interest group influence during the proposed and final stages of a rule. Measuring Interest Group Influence All of these theories—interest group power, the iron triangle, and issue networks- have been used to examine the administrative activities of U.S. bureaucracy. However, 6

there is little consensus on the proper method for assessing interest groups' influence on governmental outputs. Salisbury (1994) argued that it is extremely difficult to operationalize "influence." Hall (1992) additionally explained that measuring influence is problematic because influence is not always clearly defined. But as Goldstein (1999) stated, there are different models that characterize interest group influence. He concluded that scholars either study the inside or outside tactics used by interest groups to exert influence. He stated, "[0]utside lobbying is any type of action that attempts to influence inside-the-beltway inhabitants by influencing the behavior of outside-the-beltway inhabitants. It stands in contrast to inside strategies such as private meetings with members and staff, testifying at committee hearings, and contributing money" (p. 3). To fully understand influence, one must pay attention to both inside and outside lobbying strategies. Both inside and outside interest group efforts affect bureaucratic policymaking. Baumgartner and Leech (1998) claimed that interest groups do influence bureaucratic policy. Interest groups can influence bureaucracy by working with Congress (McCubbins, Noll and Weingast, 1987). This occurs when Congress pressures agency personnel to favor interest groups during policy implementation. The issue of climate change is an example of how congressional members, such as Representative Ed Markey (D-Michigan), side with environmental groups to pressure for policy change during rulemaking processes instead of during congressional legislation. For example, Representative Markey agreed with environmental group The Sierra Club that the U.S. needed to regulate climate-change-causing agents such as carbon dioxide. Due to congressional gridlock on climate change, the representative is currently urging the 7

Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with the regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act (Grist, 2009). Representative Markey is bypassing the gridlock by using the EPA and its regulatory processes to enact policy change. Epstein and O'Halloran (1996) discussed the importance of congressional delegation of power to the bureaucracy, which occurs over time. Congress delegates power to the bureaucracy as congressional members receive support from interest groups. This is used as a check on bureaucratic operations. Balla and Wright (2001) found that Congress regulates the bureaucracy. For example, organized interests assist in recommending members to serve on advisory groups required by Congress to oversee policymaking processes. The problem with the aforementioned literature, Yackee (2006) contended, is that it does not offer any explanations for how independent actions of interest groups might influence bureaucratic policy outputs such as notice/comment rulemaking. Interest Group Influence and Federal Agency Rulemaking The current rulemaking literature is beginning to show that interest groups are influencing a specific aspect of the U.S. policymaking process: notice/comment rulemaking. In several rulemaking studies, business interests dominate this phase. In their seminal work on the EPA's regulatory standards for water pollution, Magat et al. (1986) concluded that industry interest groups participated far more often than any other group in agency rulemaking. Building upon this analysis, Fritschler (1989) analyzed the agency rule to place warning labels on cigarettes, concluding in a case study investigation that business organizations did indeed influence the writing of this final rule. Golden (1998) 8

and West (2004) noted that business organizations dominated rulemaking processes because they hired consultants to track the Federal Register and ensure that their comments conformed to the language of the agency proposing the rule. This brings us to the question: at what stage do vested interests affect agency rulemaking? The scholarship concentrates on proposed and final rules, not the pre-proposal stage. The present rulemaking literature studies interest group influence during the proposed and final stages of rulemaking. This is usually done through examinations of the official rulemaking process, including submitted public comments. Kerwin (1994 and 2003), in a 1992 survey of Washington, D.C., lobbyists, questioned whether interest group participation influenced the final writing of an agency rule. Using survey data received from all lobbyists listed in the Government Affairs Yellow Book, he was able to review a representative sample of the organized interests apparent in rulemaking. Kerwin argued that interest groups themselves concluded that their primary role—the moment when their ability to influence agency rulemaking was at its highest—was to participate in public hearings and to informally meet with agencies to discuss rulemaking. Furlong (1993) made one of the first empirical research attempts to study interest group influence on rulemaking during the later stages of the notice/comment process. He employed two surveys to ascertain the relationships between interest groups and bureaucratic processes. In questioning interest groups (i.e. trade associations, business, and advocacy groups), he determined that the top three agencies that stakeholders tried to influence were the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Health Care Financing Administration. Furlong concluded that interest group influence on these agencies was higher because of their intense level of 9

regulatory activity, which made them desirable prospects for interest groups. Furlong also found that although business groups were indeed influential, they did not have distinct advantages over other groups when trying to influence the regulatory process. Lastly, Furlong concluded, "Evidence from the surveys suggests that participation and influence occurs directly between groups and agencies, just as it does between agencies and congressional committees and between groups and congressional committees" (p. 230). This study was one of the first to demonstrate that, in terms of influence, interest groups believed agency rulemaking to be just as important as lobbying members of Congress for legislation. To delve into how interest groups participate in agency rulemaking, Golden . (1998) questioned how much influence such groups exert. She used the frameworks of iron triangles, agency capture, and issues networks to measure and define influence for a study on notice/comment rulemaking. This examination assessed eleven regulations across three different agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Housing and Urban Development (HUD)--to conclude that business groups dominated the notice/comment processes for federal rulemaking. In addition, Golden proved that when there was a change between the notice of a proposed rule and the final rule, interest group comments during the notice/comment period were the primary catalyst for change. For example, in one of her cases, the NHTSA's electric powered vehicle rule, the agency abandoned its proposed rule altogether because of stakeholder comments. In other cases, however, changes were limited to redefinitions of key terms, or alterations to deadlines for 10

procedural requirements such as record keeping. Agencies are also most likely to change final rules when a general consensus exists among commenters (Golden, 1998). Yackee (2006) reviewed Golden's analysis, calling it merely suggestive, and claimed that more extensive work was needed to understand the relationship between the behaviors of organized interests and bureaucratic rulemaking. Yackee developed an empirical framework (2006; 2007 with McKay) grounded in the theoretical foundations of interest groups, Congress (McCubbins, Noll and Weingast 1987) and competitive lobbying groups (groups that compete to shape government policy outputs) to assess the "direct" influence of interest groups on agency rules. McKay and Yackee qualitatively coded over forty different rules developed by three different agencies to assess the overall impact of interest group influence between the stages of proposing a rule in the Federal Register and its final version. Their findings indicated that interest groups do not compete with one another during notice/comment rulemaking because they do not yet know their competitors' lobbying tactics (McKay and Yackee 2007). The research, however, does not reveal how interest groups impact a different stage in the rulemaking process, the pre- proposal stage. Different Approaches to the Examination of Rulemaking and Interest Groups Kamieniecki's (2006) research tried to incorporate public policy literature to examine interest group influence on rulemaking through a different lens. Public policy approaches to examining rulemaking and interest groups allow the researcher a way to determine how interest groups can and do set the rulemaking agenda. Downs' (1972) issue-attention cycle or Kingdon's (2003) multiple streams are two classic agenda-setting 11

Full document contains 208 pages
Abstract: Within the last fifteen years, academics have begun to explore the influence interest groups have on agency rulemaking processes. One area of inquiry in current rulemaking literature examines interest group influence during the proposed and final stages of notice and comment rulemaking. This is usually done through examination of the official rulemaking process, including submitted public comments. The starting point of this dissertation is that this current scholarship on interest group influence during administrative rulemaking is lacking attention to a key time period in the process: the pre- proposal stage. This study helps to fill in a major gap in rulemaking literature by examining how interest groups influence the development of federal environmental rulemaking even before the process enters the notice and comment phase. From a methodological standpoint, measuring interest group influence during such an informal stage is a daunting task, and two studies are not enough to wholly determine the role interest groups play at the pre-proposal stage (see Hoefer and Ferguson, 2007 and Yackee, 2008). This examination adds to this emerging and important literature in that it attempts to identify across two agencies--the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-- whether the influence interest groups exert during this stage shapes the direction of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register . Semi-structured interviews and a content analysis were used to assess stakeholder influence during the pre-proposal stage for five environmental case studies: (1) the USFWS critical habitat designation for Nebraska's Salt Creek Tiger Beetle; (2) the USFWS critical habitat designation for Utah/Arizona Shivwits and Holmgren Milk Vetches; (3) the USFWS delisting of the Northern Rocky Wolf population from the endangered species list; (4) the EPA regulations for locomotive and marine engine emissions; and (5) the EPA standards for renewable fuels. In analyzing these five cases, this dissertation finds strong evidence to support that the frames many stakeholders used during the pre-proposal stage shaped the language of an NPRM, which demonstrates that influence does occur at the pre-proposal stage.