Achievement of the nation's hazardous waste site cleanup goals depends substantially on the strength and funding of state environmental programs. While the Environmental Protection Agency has primary authority to set standards, write guidelines, and induce compliance, considerable implementation responsibility is left to the states. Federal and state programs are highly interdependent. Interdependence produces conflict over the distribution of hazardous waste control and cleanup costs at the state level that mirrors that at the federal level. Interdependence also produces conflict between federal and state governments over environmental program financing and responsibilities.
The perceived failure of state governments to promote environmental goals was central to the nationalization of environmental protection in the 1970s. Federal legislation established EPA authority to manage the generation and disposition of hazardous wastes while leaving considerable implementation responsibility to the states. During the 1970s federal government aid to state environmental programs increased as the states expanded their own commitments to environmental protection. Over the decade ending in 1980, EPA aid to state and local governments increased from 49 percent to 82 percent of total agency outlays. The New Federalism of the 1980s, emphasizing local responsibility for local problems, reversed this trend. EPA current-dollar outlays decreased by 18 percent between 1980 and 1987 while aid to state and local government fell to 64 percent of the agency's budget. Increased state and local government expenditures on natural resources and the environment made up for some of the loss in federal aid. Between 1980 and 1985 the ratio of state and local to federal government expenditures in this area increased from 10.9:1 to 12.4:1.
The shift in financial burden to the states elevated the significance of their