Photo description: London Dumping Convention January 1983
What was the blowback from the regulated community resulting from the 1980 presidential election?
- By the time of the Reagan Administration, EPA had earned a reputation with many states, local governments, and the regulated community as confrontational, arrogant, and condescending, suborning science to pure ideology, perusing a regulatory agenda of “writing all the laws allow” in a manner that was overbearing, over prescriptive, often confusing and more. EPA was a federal agency with little accountability and lacked perspective of the social and economic forces that underwrite environmental protection decisions at the local level and the state and local institutions responsible for taking action…
- Admittedly, there was widespread support for achieving goals. Who doesn’t want clean air or water? However, there was widespread growing criticism from the regulated community and scientific and engineering advisors, and from many states that the means and methods EPA employed to roll out environmental statutes during its first decade were overbearing and confrontational when conversation and collaboration would have been more effective; whether the benefits outweighed the costs.
- EPA’s first two Administrators committed to an annual written strategy document for implementing the 1972 Federal Water Quality Administration (FWQA) during its first decade of water pollution control. The document set forth both good and counterproductive priorities; in the end, it had mixed results, and the unintended consequences proved to be dire on EPA’s reputation with industry and their scientific and engineering advisors. Though imperfect, the strategy was an attempt to communicate priority actions by the leadership, but the practice died under the Carter EPA.
- “Well, the agency (EPA) policies impose some very severe burdens. The basis of the approach, the policies that have been adopted over the years since the 1972 legislation was passed, overlook the basic concept that was contained in the legislation itself, and that is that the states are clearly vested with the responsibility for water quality standards, with the U.S. EPA given an oversight role where states do not proceed with the responsibilities as it’s envisioned in the act. Now, this relationship was not being achieved. What we had was referred by some as a parent-child relationship and others as a master-serf relationship”. Leo Weaver, Ohio River Water Sanitation District Board MacNeil/Lehrer Report, “EPA’s Muddy Water’s, Televised October 19, 1982 the day EPA issued its draft reforms to Water Quality Standards.
- “Well, unlike my colleague from Ohio, we do consider this a retreat. However, we are not so concerned with the state’s ability to provide flexibility or to make its own decisions. I think the issue is at a much higher level. It’s at the political level. Frankly, we see this as a retreat in the federal commitment that was made in 1972 for a federal presence in our water pollution control program. We in California have effectively used EPA as somewhat of a gorilla in the closet.” Clint Whitney, California Water Resource Control Board.
- If I hear one more time a top government official say as a justification for more top down policies on the environment, I will go screaming into the night. Everybody wants clean air and clean water, who doesn’t – at least conceptually. Unless and until local people understand how it effects them personally, support by the citizenry may in the end be tepid at best. This is a warning to the Biden Administration.