Kent E. Portney

Texas A&M University
Bush School of Government

Bush School of Government
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
77843 |  Visit Personal Website

Search Google Scholar
Search for Google Scholar Profile

My work focuses on the relationship between how cities are governed and whether and in what ways they decide to adopt and implement local sustainability and environmental policies. The primary focus is on North America, but increasingly it is expanding to comparisons with Western Europe and Asia. Recently my work has expanded to include understanding governance of the water-energy-food nexus in urban areas, particularly as it relates to urban sustainability.

Sustainability (MIT Press, 2015)
Abstract: The word “sustainability” has been connected to everything from a certain kind of economic development to corporate promises about improved supply sourcing. But despite the apparent ubiquity of the term, the concept of sustainability has come to mean a number of specific things. In this accessible guide to the meanings of sustainability, Kent Portney describes the evolution of the idea and examines its application in a variety of contemporary contexts—from economic growth and consumption to government policy and urban planning. Portney takes as his starting point the 1987 definition by the World Commission on Environment and Development of sustainability as economic development activity that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” At its heart, Portney explains, sustainability focuses on the use and depletion of natural resources. It is not the same as environmental protection or natural resource conservation; it is more about finding some sort of steady state so that the earth can support both human population and economic growth. Portney looks at political opposition to the promotion of sustainability, which usually questions the need for sustainability or calls its costs unacceptable; collective and individual consumption of material goods and resources and to what extent they must be curtailed to achieve sustainability; the role of the private sector, and the co-opting of sustainability by corporations; government policy on sustainability at the international, national, and subnational levels; and how cities could become models for sustainability action.
"Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously." 2013. MIT.
Portney, Kent E. 2013. “Sustainability and Interest Group Participation in City Politics.” “Sustainable Cities” symposium issue of Sustainability 5:2077-2097. Co-authored with Jeffrey Berry.
Kent E. Portney “Governing Local Sustainability: Agency Venues and Business Group Access." Urban Affairs Review. Co-authored with Rick Feiock, Jungah Bae, and Jeffrey Berry.
Portney, Kent E. 2013. “Local Sustainability Policies and Programs as Economic Development: Is the New Economic Development Sustainable Development?” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 15 (1):45-62.
Portney, Kent E., and Zachary Cuttler. 2010. "The Local Nonprofit Sector and the Pursuit of Sustainability in American Cities: A Preliminary Exploration." Local Environment 15 (4):323-339.
Portney, Kent E., and Jeffrey M. Berry. 2010. "Participation and the Pursuit of Sustainability in U.S. Cities." Urban Affairs Review 46 (1):119-139.
Portney, Kent E. 2013. Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously: Economic Development, the Environment, and Quality of Life in American Cities. Second edition. MIT Press.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Governance SECONDARY
Urban Public Policy

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation SECONDARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY
Public Opinion