Controlling Industrial Pollution: The Economics and Politics of Clean Air

By Robert W. Crandall | Go to book overview

IX
Modest Pressures for Legislative Change

In 1981 there was a marked shift in political philosophy in Washington. The incoming Republicans established regulatory reform as a key issue on the first year's political agenda.1 The president signed an executive order establishing a regulatory review office in the Office of Management and Budget to review all proposed regulations.2 Senator Paul Laxalt drafted an omnibus regulatory reform bill requiring regulatory analyses of all major regulatory rules emanating from executive branch and independent agencies.3 The administration launched a review of regulatory policies affecting the automobile industry.4

One might have thought that in this climate changes in environmental policy would be high on the list of priorities. If the concern of the new policymakers in Washington was the excessive cost of government regulation, environmental policy might be a good place to look for savings, particularly in the clean air or clean water areas. The Clean Air Act's authorization expired September 30, 1981, providing the administration with an ideal opportunity to launch a legislative program to streamline air pollution policy, to make it more cost-effective, and to reduce the burden of compliance costs on industry.

Surprisingly, there was little pressure for major legislative changes.5 Had the automobile industry not been in its worst recession since the 1930s, there might have been even less interest in amending the act; the industry's plight generated mild support for some relaxation of emission

____________________
1
For a discussion of the Reagan program, see "Regulation: A Fast Start for the Reagan Strategy," Business Week, March 9, 1981, pp. 62-67; and Executive Office of the President, "Materials on President Reagan's Program on Regulatory Relief," June 13, 1981.
2
Executive Order 12291, February 17, 1981.
3
The Regulatory Reform Act, S. 1080.
4
Executive Office of the President, "Actions to Help the U.S. Auto Industry," April 6, 1981.
5
For an explanation of this inactivity, see Robert W. Crandall, "Has Reagan Dropped the Ball?" Regulation, vol. 5 (September-October 1981), pp. 15-18.

-145-

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