Superfund was to complete the environmental agenda of the 1970s, the environmental decade. A unique convergence of economic and political forces produced an unprecedented surge in environmental legislation to limit and control disposal of pollutants and hazardous substances in the air, in the water, and on the land. The decade was also a period of transitions from an era of regulation to one of deregulation. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 ushered in a concerted attack on social regulation, in particular that relating to the environment. Superfund was a first target for social deregulation in the Reagan decade. This chapter begins with an overview of the environmental movement and the environmental legislation of the 1970s. Next, congressional debate and conflict over Superfund cleanup and liability issues are examined. The factors accounting for the compromise legislation eventually signed into law are analyzed. A discussion of the conflict between congressional expectations for Superfund and the incoming Reagan administration's deregulatory ideology serves as introduction to examination of the program's tumultuous initial implementation. The Reagan EPA Superfund strategy is assessed as a primary cause of the agency's 1983 Sewergate scandal. The chapter ends with an evaluation of the efficiency and equity consequences of Superfund implementation over its first two and one-half years.
The massive industrialization accompanying and following World War II raised living standards as goods production outpaced population growth and lowered environmental quality as waste generation outpaced the absorptive