Below I chronologize EPA’s first Administrator’s imprint on EPA’s command-and-control enforcement.
- At EPA’s inception, William Ruckelshaus took steps to meet the most imperative issue “which was establishing the credibility of the agency and demonstrating the willingness of the central government, and the political process, to respond to the legitimate demands of the people.” In his 1993 interview for EPA’s Oral History, Ruckelshaus explains how some American industrialists “…Believed environmentalism was a fad, a lot of nonsense that would go away if they just hunkered down, fought, and publicly confronted us. They couldn’t have been more wrong. When they decided to confront (me) or the Agency … it was simple to take them on. We couldn’t have invented any better antagonist for the purpose of showing that this was serious business, that the agency was serious about its mission.”
- Ruckelshaus’ prominent role in ordering and announcing to the press and hence to the world these first municipal and industrial water pollution enforcement cases denoted that the implementation of EPA’s enforcement policies and subsequent roll out of additional enforcement cases would be based on “personality-driven management style,” and not system or organizational-driven management styles. I do not believe this was Ruckelshaus’ intent.
Anne’s enforcement reorganization and the chaos that ensued was the smoking gun that Reagan’s natural enemies needed to press the case that the Reagan/Gorsuch EPA was backing away from enforcing environmental law. It eventually led to six Democratically-controlled congressional committees investigating EPA’s enforcement record.
Now having the organizational responsibility for permits and compliance, I could develop a water quality standards-to-permits strategy that would, I hoped, for decades guide the entire industry towards more cost effective and less confrontational decision-making while providing the information needed for all stakeholders to make good decisions in what could be a more collaborative manner between the regulators and the regulated.
Ruckelshaus’s transcribed comments to his national compliance/enforcement staff on January 24, 1984 were remarkable and should be examined by students of environmental communication and policy. They are in the Eidsness Archives of Colorado State University’s Morgan Library Water Resources section. Remarkable for several reasons, the comments provide a glimpse into Ruckelshaus’s management style in the early years (1971-73) when he first set up EPA’s organization, particularly the Office of General Counsel and Legal Enforcement.
The model for bringing cases was emulated by all regional enforcement directors and their staffs, which was to use the highly orchestrated and theatrical public shaming events called “Enforcement Conferences” that were authorized under the 1948 CWA. All the environmental lobby had to do was sit and wait, while continuing their drumbeat-and-disinformation campaign, and something would inevitably happen that related to the central theme of backing away from environmental protections, which would then make the allegation a self-fulfilling prophecy!