In United States of America, the environmental policy is a governmental action to control activities that may have an impact on the environment in the United States.The main purpose of this policy is to keep safe the environment and protect it for future generations. And in the same time - to interfere as little as possible in the commerce efficiency and people's liberty.The environmental policy takes its beginning from the great environmental movement in the 1960s - 1970s. During this movement a few protection laws have been passed - these laws regulated water and air pollution. To keep the control of implementation of these laws the Environmental Protection Agency (also known as EPA) was created.Of course, not everybody was satisfied.These regulations required significant costs, and this involved a backlash from certain political and business interests. That’s why the environment policy’s budgets were quite limited and hence the efforts to protect the environment were slow.Despite the numerous obstacles on the part of politicians and business, since the 1970s, there have been great achievements and significant regulations in the environmental activities. These changes have affected water and air quality, in addition, some control of hazardous waste was provided.Also, due to increased influence of a global warming problem on the one hand and political pressure from the groups which have supported the environment protection on the other hand, modifications to the limits on the emission of greenhouse gas (and generally to the U.S.A. energy policy) have been proposed, but this have made the technical progress being limited.
There are two main policy tools for its implementation - inducements and rules. In the United States of America these rules are often used through regulation. It can come as the form of performance standards and design standards. The first standards specify emission levels. Design standards usually show how exactly performance standards can be met. Also, the government can decide to use inducements (or "market reform"). The inducements in this case mean rewards or punishments which are used to affect groups or people. There are two main types of "market reforms" - it is charge systems (for example, as emissions taxes) or it is "tradable permit systems". The "auction of pollution rights" is the one of the types of tradable permit system. According to this system, the amount of pollution which can be allowed is divided into parts, which then can be auctioned. This gives the environmental organizations an opportunity to buy these parts and create a more clean environment, than was planned originally. For example, the similar plan was implemented for the emissions of SO2 in Acid Rain Program (1990). The same program has been used for greenhouse gases as a way to reduce the influence of global warming.
The environmental policy jurisdiction and power are delegated to two branches – executive branch and legislative branch. The executive branch consists of departments, which have an area of environmental authority – they are keeping control of laws and acts implementation. The legislative branch consists of different committees, which are involved into a legislative process and divided depending of which area they controlling – water quality, pesticides, public health, international environment, etc.
Origins of the Environmental Movement and the Historical View on Environmental Policy in the United States
The first environmental law was passed in the early time in common law doctrines. It was called the Rivers and Harbors Act (1899). The precursor of the modern environmental policy was the conservation movement, which was associated with Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt. And the modern environmental movement has begun from the times of the Nixon administration – that times were called “The Environmental Decade” of the 1970s – 1980s.
On January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed by the President Richard Nixon. This famous act has begun the environmental decade. According to the NEPA, the Council on Environmental Quality was created. The main purpose of this council was to oversee the environmental influence of federal actions. Then, there was created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this agency has consolidated all environmental programs into a single entity. During this period, the legislation concerned first-generation pollutants in the water surface, air, solid waste disposal and groundwater. The main air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulates, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide were put under regulation. Also were concerned the issues such as global warming, acid rain and visibility. In water surface that were be such as dissolved oxygen, suspended and dissolved solids, bacteria, nutrients and toxic metals. In solid waste, the contaminants of concern were from industry, municipalities, agriculture and mining. For groundwater, the concerned pollutants included organic and inorganic substances, biological contaminants and radionuclides. The policy which was provided by EPA was implemented in each state.
The next administration of Ronald Reagan was skeptical of the protection of environment. During his presidency, Ronald Reagan gradually reduced the environmental policy’s budget by 30% by signing the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (1981). According to this act, the number of employees in EPA was cut,and the key positionshad been assigned by the loyal to the governmentpeople. According to the new administrative strategy, environmental laws were interpreted significantly more favorably for business and industry interests.
The environmental policy during the H.W. Bush first administration was something like a mixture of restriction and innovation. He also assigns his loyal first environmentalist to head the EPA – his name was William Reilly.
The Clinton administration pledged to change the direction of environmental policy. His environmental administration argued that economic growth and environmental protection were not incompatible. But, Clinton has been dissatisfied by some environmentalists due to his middle-of-the-road positions in such questions as clean-up of the Everglades and grazing fees in the West. Particularly, Clinton was strongly criticized by Ralph Nader – the Green Party’s candidate.
Despite this criticism, Clinton had several significant and notable accomplishments in environment policy. He signed the Kyoto Protocol, created the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and stood against the attempts of Republican to roll back environmental regulations and laws through the appropriations process. The Clinton administration increased the EPA’s budget, much of the national resources were taken in protection, such as Everglades and the size of Everglades National park was increased.
In 2002, when the President was George W. Bush, the government has announced a special environment initiative called “Clear Skies”. This initiative was designed to reduce three pollutants: nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. The system based on a market was used to Clear Skies by allowing energy companies to trade and buy the pollution credits. George Bush claimed that since his initiative would use a marked system, the amount of pollution that would be eliminated would be even higher compared to the Clean Air Act. But the president’s opponents weren’t agreeing with him. The Clean Air Act was signed by Richard Nixon in 1970 and enacted by the U.S. Congress. With the time initiative Clear Skies was considered ineffective.
President refused to sign the Kyoto protocol because of negative consequences for the country. Also he cited that developing countries like China and India were exempt from these requirements. Many of G. Bush’s critics negatively perceived his withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol. They said that he made his decision not on science but on ideology. The President’s refusal to find ratification in Senate was significantly criticized by his Congress opponents and in the media. The harshest critics even claimed that the decision about the Kyoto Protocol was taken just due to G. Bush’s relationship with oil companies. The promise of an environmental company to regulate carbon dioxide emissions which was given by the President in 2001 was reversed. The environmental groups have seen this broken campaign as a betrayal of their interests. His reversal on the problem of regulating emissions was one of controversial stands on the issues of environment. For example, the president explained that the factory farms do not discharge any waste from animals, and this makes them able to avoid the oversight according to the Clean Air Act.
The actions of the Bush administration were perceived as ideological but not as scientifically based. The stem of this criticism was in that the president just shifted his views compared to that time, when he was a candidate for a president. His presidency was been in close ties with oil companies and seemed weak on the environment. However, some experts admit, that the most amount of regulations was issued during Bush’s presidency. During his cadency he solved a number of issues. For example, Bush ordered the EPA to make a development of a regional regulation on a marked-based system. According to this order, EPA came-up with the new act, called Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). The main purpose of this rule was the reducing of pollution from coal burning plants on 70 percent.
At the end of Bush presidency he has engaged in a numerous environmental proposals. Bush called on the countries which have had the biggest greenhouse gases to control their emissions. Also he initiated the United States to join the United Nation’s post-2012 climate plan, which must be released after Kyoto expires. According to this plan both developing and developed nations must be included in the process of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. In Bush’s last presidency years he changed his view on a climate problem. He took several stepts to address the criticism from the environmental groups about his broken promises in the past.
The environmental issues are important in present days too. They have been seen during the 2008 presidential election. The new President Barack Obama obtained a significant lead above his opponent John McCain exactly because of his views on the environmental issues – he obtained the loyalty of all environmental groups and the confidence of public in these questions. The present president administration seriously takes care about the environmental issues.
Environmental Issues Today
Since the environmental decade of the 1970s – 1980s, the nature of the issues in environment has changed. The initial emphasis was put on water pollutants and conventional air, because they are the most easily measurable and obvious problems. But the new long-term problems and new issues have arisen. These problems cannot be discerned and solved in easy way. The main problems we will discuss are acid deposition, ozone depletion and hazardous wastes.
Acid deposition as the dry deposition and in the form of acid rain is the result of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur being emitted into the air, landing in different places, changing the acidity of land and water, on which these chemicals fall. The number of problems caused acid deposition in the West United states and the Northeast United States from utilities and motor vehicles and from the burning of coal. During the presidency of Carter, the United States provided a risk-averse policy through the Council of Environmental Quality and the EPA to control and research the pollutants suspected to cause the deposition of acid even in the conditions of scientific uncertainty. In the time of Reagan presidency, the government was more tolerant to risk. Reagan claimed, that the new expenditures must not be undertaken, because it could curtail economic growth and energy security. When George H.W. Bush was the president, his administration called for legislation of a new Clean Air Act to curtail nitrogen-dioxide and sulfur-dioxide emissions. The amendments to this act were passed in 1990 and that cut emissions by approximately 12 million tons per year. The system of emission trading and a market-like system were set up. The cap of emissions was set for the year 2000. These achievements became possible in some degree because of industrial scrubbers installation.
Ozone depletion is the reduced ozone concentration in the stratosphere of the Earth (so called ozone layer). This layer serves to block the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The much responsible of the depletion of the ozone concentration are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemical mixtures were used in a number of important industrial areas beginning in the 1930s. That’s why, four years later, the FDA and EPA have banned CFCs in the consistency of aerosol cans. As was indicated by the researches in the 1980s, the problem was even worse than before. The massive hole in the ozone layer was revealed over Antarctica. After this, several international agreements were signed to reduce the damaging of ozone layer – they were the Vienna Convention, the Montreal Protocol and the London agreement in 1990. That year in the United States the Clean Air Act Amendments reduced the production of CFCs. The phase-out of CFCs was continued almost two decades and now the ozone layer expected to start the recovery by 2024.
In 1976 the United States provided first regulations of hazardous waste by implementing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Later, after the events at Love Canal, the other act was signed – the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). These acts were provided to control the hazardous waste from its generation and to the final disposition. The main purpose of this regulation is to prevent harm from the hazardous waste and to pass the cleanup process to the producers of the hazardous waste. Some problems of the waste regulation are that the effect of this kind of pollution is very difficult to detect. Also the hazardous waste regulation is very costly and difficult. The implementation of this laws was difficult, especially the legislating process. CERCLA was passed just before Reagan has become the president, in December 1980. The Congress passed $9 billion to provide new technologies and studies. Even today the cost of CERCLA is ranging in billions of dollars. That’s why this environmental program is the most criticized – due to a large cost.
The Impact of the Environmental Policy
The initiation of the major environmental legislation since 1970s led the great progress in many areas – between 1970 and 1996 the population grew by 29% and air pollutants dropped 32%. The other pollutions, especially water pollutants, have been more difficult to track. Water and air standards have been improving very slowly, and thus 70 million people in 1996 still lived in the areas, that didn’t meet ozone standards of EPA. The environmental legislation critics usually argue that the cost of the gains which were made in environmental protection come at very great cost. Indeed, the total cost of environmental regulation is estimated to 2% of the United States gross domestic product. For example, $122 billion was spent on environment policy in 1994.
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