Enforcing the Law: The Case of the Clean Water Acts

Enforcing the Law: The Case of the Clean Water Acts

Enforcing the Law: The Case of the Clean Water Acts

Enforcing the Law: The Case of the Clean Water Acts

Synopsis

"Hunter and Waterman's important work is the most comprehensive analysis available of the Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement of the Clean Water Act and its amendments. The book uses extensive EPA data, including a survey of federaland state-level environmental officials, to examine enforcement from the perspective of government personnel. Emphasis is on what is done, how it is done, and why it is done. By combining detailed documentation of regulatory implementation with surveys of the views of federal and state officials, industry representatives, and environmental activists, this study illuminates a process of pragmatic enforcement - that is, the way bureaucrats actually do their jobs. The book examines the operation of pollution control policy over two decades and several presidential administrations; shows the pragmatic nature of regulatory enforcement, mixing adherence with due discretion; and considers the effectiveness of both punitive and incentive-based policies in different contexts." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In general usage, "enforcement" appears to be a very popular word. For example, a common theme of politicians on the campaign trail today is how they intend to get tough with criminals. Campaigns stress the need for tougher laws against a variety of potential offenders and stricter penalties against those who are ultimately convicted. Candidates who are considered weak on criminal enforcement, such as the Democrats' 1988 presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, are ridiculed as being weak and ineffectual. Such attacks in 1988 on Dukakis led many Democrats, including his successor, Bill Clinton, to make law enforcement a major component of their domestic agendas. Not only did Bill Clinton remind voters that he was for the death penalty, but also two convicted felons were executed in Arkansas during the 1992 presidential campaign. After he was elected, Clinton managed to get a tough crime bill through Congress. Republicans were not deterred by Clinton's move to the right. After the Republican sweep in November 1994, the new majority party in Congress promised to be even more vigilant in enforcing the law and to pass a new and even sterner crime bill. The message, then, is that law enforcement should be strict and severe.

The message is clear when it comes to crime prevention. But what about other types of enforcement? This book examines enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act, and its various amendments. Should enforcement of environmental standards be strict and severe? The message that is so emphatic in the area of law enforcement does not seem to resonate as clearly when we turn our attention to the behavior of federal regulatory agencies. For one thing, there is clear evidence that regulatory enforcement has not been very effective, especially in the area of environmental protection. As Ashworth (1995: 31) wrote,

Polls may show that Americans support environmental legislation, but the record of compliance speaks otherwise. Indeed, there is probably no other class of laws that is so routinely evaded, violated, and ignored as those that have to do with environmental protection. On paper, our environmental protection mechanism is regulated as tightly as a fine watch. In practice, it is more like a wind-up clown with a drum -- making a lot of noise, running around in circles, and running down almost immediately.

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