Environmental Quality: A Great Disappearing Act

Article excerpt

The government document Environmental Quality is the annual report to Congress produced within the Executive Office of the President by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ's Environmental Quality report is required to be prepared for the president under section 201 of the landmark legislation, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4341). This annual report represents an overview of the nation's environment and provides a general outline of achievements in protecting and assuring the quality of the environment. Specific sections of the report address a variety of strategies for improving the quality of the environment, outline the goals for implementing those strategies, and provide a basis for further analyses and evaluations of the most important issues related to air and water quality and issues related to ecological viability of land resources

CEQ is responsible for developing national policies related to ensuring the quality of the environment and for determining the environmental impact of federal government programs and initiatives. CEQ is also responsible for overseeing implementation and enforcement of NEPA.

Environmental Quality also provides a concise overview of the activities of the previous years and current issues related to the implementation of provisions of the NEPA and a summary of selected judicial rulings on NEPA and related legislation. Every issue of Environmental Quality provides an inventory of national statistics on the environment; it is a source of environmental data and information on current conditions and trends for energy (use and consumption), land use, discharge of chemicals and other materials in ground and surface waters, emissions of air pollutants, U.S. population trends, economic indicators, recreation, aquatic and terrestrial resources, biodiversity, recycling, transportation, and toxic substances control.

Given the importance of this annual report, Environmental Quality WAS one of the most important government documents bridging the scientific and technical underpinnings with the policy and decision-making aspects related to assuring the quality of our national and global commitments to environmental quality. Environmental Quality WAS one of the most useful ready-reference sources for statistics related to ecological and environmental topics, overviews of major government initiatives, and synopses of critical national and global environmental issues. Environmental Quality WAS an important compilation of data and information provided by the Executive Office.

The reason why such an important and landmark reference work WAS, relates directly to the fact that the last year for which Environmental Quality was prepared was 1997. The 1997 CEQ report on the environment was a special issue devoted to "Using Information Technology to Improve NEPA Decisionmaking and Management."

How could such an important document simply disappear and, moreover, why has this disappearance gone virtually unnoticed by the environmental community for so long? The history of the demise of this critical environmental report is closely attached to the controversial history of the CEQ itself, a history that has included times when CEQ was allowed to flourish and its annual report contributed to the archive of American history. …