Existing Federal and State Policies for Environmental Justice: Problems and Prospects
For several reasons, the twenty-first century is a particularly exciting time to examine environmental politics and policy at the federal and state levels. First, the 1980s were a period of implementation of federal environmental policies enacted during the two previous decades: the Clean Air Act and Amendments of 1970 and 1977, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Amendments of 1972, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, the Federal Land Management Act of 1978, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, the Hazardous and Solid Waste Act Amendments of 1984, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Like the 1980s and the 1990s ( Lester and Lombard, 1990), the 2000s will be an "implementation era" in environmental policy, as well as in other areas of public policy.
Second, intergovernmental relations have recently taken on greater significance than ever. During the 1980s, the doctrine of new federalism stressed devolution of authority from the federal level to the state and local levels in many areas of public policy. As part of the legacy of the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton presidencies, states and local communities are taking on many responsibilities for protecting the environment that were previously the province of the federal government. Indeed, the head of Vermont's environmental agency, Jonathan Lash, has said that the most important innovations in environmental protection are now occurring at the state level and many others agree with this assessment.