Presidential Influence and Environmental Policy

By Robert A. Shanley; Bernard K. Johnpoll | Go to book overview
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advisers, aware of the relatively high and sustained public support for environmental protection registered in public opinion polls, know that presidents are judged at reelection time mainly on the state of the economy and the public's perception of the president's handling of the economy and promoting of economic growth. The fact that the widely used index registering economic growth, the Gross National Product, does not accurately factor in the environmental costs of such growth influences presidential initiatives and the administrative presidency in environmental policy.

In the face of a nagging recession, relatively high unemployment, and an impending election, the Bush Administration increasingly shifted its emphasis toward the development of natural resources, altering environmental laws, easing up on pollution control regulations, and limiting citizens' appeals to prevent private enterprise activities in public lands. The White House concerns about the possible loss of traditional Republican support in Rocky Mountain states and its desire to regain the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington led to a proposal to amend the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture adopted rules to limit citizen and environmental groups in appealing and preventing mining and oil drilling and sales of timber on public lands. The Administration's plan to narrow the definition of the nation's wetlands, its steps to allow firms to increase toxic air pollution above levels allowed by their permits without informing the public, and Bush's executive order extending the four-month moratorium on new regulations and review of existing environmental regulations were to boost the economy and enhance the president's chances for reelection. 44

The Bush administrative presidency has reflected the president's pragmatic and reactive decision-making style and priorities. It has maintained and extended the system of centralized review of regulatory policy built up over three previous administrations. In order to ensure Bush's reelection, the tools of the administrative presidency have also been selectively used to "balance" environmental policy with competing economic objectives to the detriment of the environment on some key problems.

James A. Strock, "The Congress and the President: From Confrontation to Creative Tension," Environmental Law Reporter 17 ( 1987): 10006-9.
463 U.S. 29, 1983.
452 U.S. 490, 1981.
Public Citizen Health Research Group v. Rowland, 796 F.2d 1479, D.C. Cir. 1986.


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