Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People

By Adler, Jonathan H. | Independent Review, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People


Adler, Jonathan H., Independent Review


* Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People By David Schoenbrod New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005. Pp. x, 296. $28.00 cloth.

Can the United States have high levels of environmental protection without a strong federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? The idea is heretical in environmentalist circles. Yet David Schoenbrod has emerged from within the environmentalist movement to make such a case in Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People. His approach challenges contemporary orthodoxy in environmental policy, but if he wins converts, the result might be vastly improved environmental protection.

As a young environmental activist, Schoenbrod believed centralized regulation was the key to environmental progress. As he recounts in the book, he assumed that powerful federal regulatory agencies staffed with disinterested bureaucrats and technical experts were the best hope for environmental protection. Removing key environmental policy decisions from the tumult of legislative politics was supposed to allow the experts within the EPA to adopt public-spirited measures to preserve environmental quality for current and future generations.

Fresh out of law school, Schoenbrod joined the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), created to "do for the environment what the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had done for civil rights" (p. 22). From his position at the center of key environmental policy debates, he saw the regulatory process in all its glory-and it wasn't pretty. Whereas he once believed a federal regulatory agency "should have the power to make the environmental rules for the entire country" (p. 5), he now seeks to make environmental policy "less elitist and more accountable to ordinary people" (p. 8). Indeed, he wants to save the environment from the very institutions currently entrusted with its protection.

Schoenbrod's baptism came in his efforts to remove lead from gasoline. Although the lead phaseout is generally considered one of environmental law's greatest successes, Schoenbrod's experience in fighting the EPA over lead for nearly a decade was the beginning of his gradual disillusionment with contemporary environmental law. It was well known that sufficiently high exposure to lead can retard children's intellectual development and that leaded gasoline was a major source of exposure. After Congress adopted the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA seemed ready to act. Then politics intervened, and action was postponed. After years of litigation, the lead was finally taken out, but by foisting the lead issue onto the EPA, Congress avoided responsibility and delayed environmental progress.

In essence, this story can be repeated many times over. The Clean Air Act, as amended in 1990, is 450 pages long. Yet many of the law's requirements are not in the act itself, but in the 7,200 pages of implementing regulations adopted by the EPA, which in turn are supported by hundreds (if not thousands) of pages of rationales, guidance documents, and additional materials. And this is just one of many federal environmental statutes. It is no wonder some analysts compare federal environmental regulation to Soviet-style central planning. Schoenbrod, for his part, suggests another metaphor: the EPA is a "military organization." As he explains, "Top-down military organization is the logical consequence of thinking that the environmental captain should be insulated from accountability to the passengers of Spaceship Earth" (p. 62). Only the EPA can be trusted to delineate and enforce environmental mandates, so the EPA has the ultimate authority to determine what measures are enough and how clean is clean.

The EPA, however, is not as insulated from external pressure as some might hope. Faced with a series of rigid and impossible mandates-"the battle plan that Congress has told the EPA to execute is beyond its [the EPA's] capacity" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.