A Preliminary Analysis of Environmental Management in the United States

Article excerpt


Comparative state environmental research continuously seeks to explain the factors contributing to intergovernmental environmental management. Much of the definitive research in this important policy area, however, is bound by date and time. In an effort to update and further the examination of states' capacity to manage their environmental situations, the authors analyze environmental effort in the southern states using data from 1987 and incorporate nontraditional measures of pollution, organizational capacity, and state fiscal health.

Furthermore, recognizing the fiscal stress encountered in the late 1980s, the authors venture that state fiscal health will influence environmental effort negatively as states force finite dollars via federal mandates to environmental programs only to exacerbate their dismal fiscal circumstances. In this preliminary analysis of states' environmental effort, the authors find state fiscal health and pollution levels to be significant estimators of environmental effort while organizational capacity is not.


Comparative state environmental policy research continually addresses the issue of intergovernmental management (Lester et al. 1983; Davis and Lester, 1987,1989). Research concerning hazardous waste regulations commands the most attention from scholars of environmental regulatory federalism (for a review of these studies, see Lester and Bowman, 1983; Davis and Lester, 1988, 1989; Davis, 1993). Research on regulatory federalism focuses on both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of environmental policy research. For example, the extant literature integrates many of the following concepts when analyzing environmental policy across the states, namely -Administrative - to categorize states according to their ability to manage environmental programs;

-Resource - to assess states' financial capacity to implement specific legislative requirements;

-Political - to evaluate states' political disposition toward environmental affairs;

-Structure - to examine states' ability to comply with federal regulations institutionally;

-Socioeconomic - to explore the various influences of states' demographic characteristics; and

-Technological - to analyze states' industrial disposition and economics dependency on such industries (Lester and Bowman, 1983; ACIR; 1984; Williams and Methany, 1984; Goetze and Rowland, 1983; Bowman and Kearney, 1986; Crotty, 1987; Davis and Lester, 1987; Fitzgerald, Lyons, and Freeman, 1989; Davis, Kirkpatrick, and Scheberle, 1992; Gormley, 1992).

Much of the comparative state regulatory research, however, is dependent on data from the 1970s and early 1980s. One of the primary efforts of this study is to update and further the examination of states' capacity to manage their environmental condition. Recognizing the regulatory changes occurring at both the state and federal levels, the authors examine states' capacity for managing their own environmental programs. Explaining states' fiscal commitment to environmental affairs becomes crucial, given that most states have achieved program primacy,1 to understanding the nature of regulatory federalism relative to the environmental arena.


As Davis and Lester (1989:58) observe in explaining research objectives for comparative state environmental policy, "The task for students of environmental policy and politics is to specify when, where, and under what conditions states are able to successfully implement environmental programs." In concurring with Davis and Lest, the authors seek to understand the dynamics associated with predicting environmental policy in the states.

A state's effort to manage environmental programs is paramount to understanding the potential effects of environmental federalism. Initially, states basically depended on federal support to implement environmental programs. …


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