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Enforcement at the EPA

Enforcement at the EPA

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: REV - Revised, 2
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  • Book Info
    Enforcement at the EPA
    Book Description:

    The only published work that treats the historical evolution of EPA enforcement, this book provides a candid inside glimpse of a crucial aspect of the work of an important federal agency. Based on 190 personal interviews with present and former enforcement officials at EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and key congressional staff members-along with extensive research among EPA documents and secondary sources-the book vividly recounts the often tumultuous history of EPA's enforcement program. It also analyzes some important questions regarding EPA's institutional relationships and the Agency's working environment.

    This revised and updated edition adds substantial new chapters examining EPA enforcement during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Its treatment of issues of civil service decline and the applicability of captive agency theory is also new and original.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73711-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    A critical actor in the federal regulation of pollution in the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA” or “the Agency”) is a governmental body charged by Congress with immense responsibility for implementing more than fourteen statutes respecting environmental quality and the public health.¹ From modest beginnings during the Nixon administration,² EPA’s workload has increased dramatically to encompass such diverse and complex environmental issues as hazardous waste management, asbestos in schools, acid rain, and the quality of drinking water. Public support for accomplishment of the Agency’s challenging mission has remained strong, widespread, and consistent.³

    This book examines a difficult...

  5. CHAPTER 2 “Where the Rubber Hits the Road and Everything Else Hits the Fan”: A Brief Description of EPA’s Enforcement Process and the Superfund Program
    (pp. 9-20)

    Enforcement occupies a central place in the administration of regulatory requirements. This is particularly so with regard to federal environmental laws. Laborious, technical, time-consuming, and suffused with tensions, the enforcement process of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is, in the words of one skillful, experienced participant, “where the rubber hits the road and everything else hits the fan.”¹

    For well over a century, following enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, federal administrative regulation of economic activities has become an established fact of American life. In a variety of substantive areas (from aviation to securities to labor relations) Congress...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Heavy Seas before the Maelstrom: EPA Enforcement in the 1970s
    (pp. 21-40)

    On July 2, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon notified Congress that he planned to reorganize the executive branch to create two new independent agencies: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Months of increasing public concern about the declining quality of the American environment preceded President Nixon’s notice.

    In January 1969, a dramatic oil well blowout near Santa Barbara, California, coated many miles of beachfront with heavy oil, killing thousands of fish and waterfowl. This and similar incidents focused public attention on the presence and dangers of water and air pollution, problems that had...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Destruction, Confusion, Confrontation, and Disarray: EPA Enforcement and Congressional Oversight in the Gorsuch Era
    (pp. 41-61)

    The arrival of the Reagan administration in January 1981 heralded a dramatic change in the tone, structure, and operation of EPA’s enforcement program. The two years that followed would see a sharp decline in the initiation of new enforcement cases, a precipitous drop in career staff morale, and a drastic loss of public credibility for EPA in general. To appreciate the reasons for these trends and the pervasiveness and profundity of their impact, one must first appreciate the manner in which EPA’s new top managers were selected by the Reagan administration, the attitudes they held upon taking office, and the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 “Away from the Brink”—But Not Out of the Woods: EPA Enforcement from 1983 to 1989
    (pp. 62-86)

    In July 1988, David Andrews, a private attorney who had served in EPA during the Carter administration wrote:

    There is no question that Bill Ruckelshaus moved the [Environmental Protection] Agency away from the brink of disaster and put it back on the road to recovery. Lee Thomas has kept the Agency on that road, but the Agency continued to suffer from a perception that it is not fully committed to meet its environmental and public health responsibilities. Therefore there is still some distance to travel before Congress and the public will view EPA as an agency operating with a full...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Modest Progress and Renewed Suspicion: EPA Enforcement in the Bush I Administration
    (pp. 87-103)

    Environmental protection was a significant issue in the presidential election of 1988. To the surprise of many environmentalists, who expected a continuation of Ronald Reagan’s public conservatism on environmental issues, candidate George H. W. Bush attacked the environmental record of his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, on the cleanup of Boston Harbor and pledged that he (Bush) would be an “environmental president” who would take firm measures to halt the greenhouse effect and stop the destruction of wetland areas. Over the course of Bush’s administration, this more pro-environmental attitude resulted in beneficial changes in EPA’s enforcement efforts, particularly in the early...

  10. CHAPTER 7 “Neither the Best of Times nor the Worst of Times”: EPA Enforcement during the Clinton Administration
    (pp. 104-139)

    The election of William J. (“Bill”) Clinton as president of the United States, in November 1992, gave rise to high hopes among environmental advocates. Among environmental organizations, EPA staff members, pro-environmental representatives, senators and their staffs, some state and local officials, and others who favored effective environmental regulation, the coming to power of Clinton’s administration—coupled with the continued dominance of Congress by the Democratic Party—created a very real prospect that environmental matters would once again be afforded a high priority in Washington, D.C. Redoubled EPA enforcement, together with vigorous rule making (especially under the 1990 amendments to the...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Suspicions, Schisms, and Partial Revival: EPA Enforcement during the Bush II Administration
    (pp. 140-183)

    Although it is scarcely unique to them, the permanent career staff at EPA who are tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have an exquisite sensitivity to signs and signals from their politically appointed leaders that relate to the work they do. These employees often have well-developed, informal channels of communication with one another, and (particularly at the beginnings of new presidential administrations) they engage in frequent and earnest discussions among themselves regarding the actions, leanings, quirks, and tendencies of the presidential appointees whose policies and decisions will importantly affect the direction and pace of their work.

    In part for...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Lessons Learned: Some Observations on Congressional Oversight, Organizational Structure, Management Approaches, and Career Staff Trends
    (pp. 184-202)

    What are the larger lessons of EPA’s enforcement history? What does the Agency’s past performance in this critical aspect of its responsibilities contribute to our broader understanding of regulatory enforcement in general? What has been the impact of congressional oversight of EPA enforcement? How has Agency enforcement been affected by changes in organizational structure and the managerial styles of political appointees? And what has been the role of the EPA’s career enforcement staff?

    In the past few years, the writings of American scholars have reflected a modest but growing interest in both congressional oversight of federal agency activities and the...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Did Industry Capture EPA Enforcement? Captive Agency Theory and Its (Partial) Applicability
    (pp. 203-223)

    EPA’s varied enforcement experiences raise a further question that deserves systematic attention: has the Agency enforcement program been “captured” by the entities that EPA monitors and regulates? This chapter examines the extent to which the captive agency theory, first articulated in 1955 by Princeton University professor Marver Bernstein in his influential book,Regulating Business by Independent Commission,¹ applies to EPA’s enforcement work. After summarizing Bernstein’s theories of administrative regulations as a paradigm of captive agency theory, and describing the legislative reforms of the 1970s and 1980s that attempted to take account of the insights and criticisms of captive agency theorists...

  14. CHAPTER 11 EPA Enforcement in the Context of Federal Civil Service Decline
    (pp. 224-231)

    EPA is only one of a plethora of federal agencies and departments that collectively employ millions of people and a large (and apparently indeterminate) number of contractors. In 2008, in an important book-length contribution to the literature of public administration,A Government Ill-Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It,¹ Paul C. Light carefully examined and documented an overall decline in the quality of the federal civil service and the manner in which it implements federal laws. In Light’s view, “[t]he federal service is suffering the greatest crisis since it was founded in the first moments...

  15. APPENDIX A. Persons Interviewed
    (pp. 232-236)
  16. APPENDIX B. Government Service Job Titles of Individuals Interviewed by Author
    (pp. 237-243)
  17. APPENDIX C. Standard Interview Questionnaire in Interviews Prior to 2003
    (pp. 244-245)
  18. APPENDIX D. Standard Interview Questions Asked in All Interviews Beginning in 2003
    (pp. 246-246)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 247-304)
  20. Index
    (pp. 305-313)