Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Hugh Gorman


Coal tar based sealants are applied to parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds in order to prevent pavements from deteriorating and cracking. Approximately 85 million gallons of coal tar based sealants are applied annually in the United States. In the mid-2000s scientists discovered that these type of sealants release polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can be harmful to human and ecosystem health. After this discovery, dozens of city, county, and state wide bans of the product were put in place. However, some attempts at statewide bans have failed, while others have succeeded. This research examines the factors explaining the difference. These factors are then evaluated in order to suggest ways to improve decision making in other states, as well as at the federal level. Specifically, a comparative case analysis of four coal tar sealant ban bills (in Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, and Maryland) was performed using documentary research, governance mapping, and interviews. Examples of factors influencing the outcomes of these state-level efforts include the participation (or lack of participation) of the state agency responsible for environmental quality, whether any public outreach has been performed, and the degree to which the costs of PAH contamination is accounted for in the law. This case study also provides insight into how state-level efforts to develop environmental policies can serve as a testing ground for efforts at the national level.