The Power Grab

Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 1 day in the computer lab
2 days in the classroom
run off news articles
Materials: Articles: “Oak Ridge Contamination even worse than feared” and “About Yucca Mountain Standards”


Students will look at current articles to study how the executive branch enforces laws with the input of other groups.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the departments and agencies within the executive branch that enforce energy policy.
2. Describe potential concerns that the executive branch must address when developing energy policy.

National Standards For Civics and Government
III-A How is power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
III-E How does the American political system provide for choice and opportunities for participation?
III-D What is the place of law in the American constitutional system?

Teacher Background
This lesson is an extension of the previous lesson, “What Makes the Nation Go Round?”

Resource Websites
http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/default.asp (Natural Resource Defense Council)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/energy/ (White House and energy news)
and http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca/about.htm (nuclear power case study)



Day 1:
1. Have students go to the Natural Resource Defense Council web site:
http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/default.asp and complete the following:
a. Browse the web page to list 5 environmental health issues that are described. For each issue students must record: the issue and the title of the article that discusses the issue.
b. List two government organizations that you identified from the page.
c. Describe the specific activities of the two agencies you identified.

2. Have students go to the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/energy/
to browse the page in order to answer the following:
a. Describe the President’s energy policy.
b. What is the potential impact of his policy on the environment? List both positive and negative effects.
c. Which groups are responsible for helping the President develop and enforce energy policy?

Day 2: Case Study on Nuclear Power
1. Hand out the article: “About Yucca Mountain Standards” from: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca/about.htm

2. Students will work in small groups to:

a) List the 1) departments 2) agencies and 3) commissions that are mentioned in the article.
b) Discuss the responsibilities that the bureaucracy (departments and agencies), the Congress and the President have in dealing with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.
c) Describe the major issues surrounding the Yucca Mountain debate.

3. Hand out the article: “Oak Ridge Contamination even worse than feared” from: http://www.tennessean.com/sii/longterm/oakridge/part2/stories/worse.shtml

4. Ask student groups to use the information in the articles they read: “About Yucca Mountain Standards” and “Oak Ridge Contamination even worse than feared” to answer the following:

a) List 4 potential hazards that the Energy Department must address if it intends to open the Yucca Mountain waste disposal site by 2010.
b) Using the information from these articles, make an appeal to the Secretary of Energy (the teacher) on behalf of the state of Nevada to challenge the site’s environmental impact on Yucca Mountain.
c) (On a sheet of butcher paper) Identify the main arguments that support your position. Each group will present their arguments to the class and the Secretary of Energy (teacher).

Class discussion on the following:
1. What are the major functions of the president, bureaucracy (departments and agencies) and congress in developing and enforcing energy policy?
2. How can private citizens take part in the process?

Embedded Assessment
Results of student computer research and the case study should reflect an understanding of the major groups involved with energy policy and concerns that must be addressed.


Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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