Pluralism by Design: Environmental Policy and the American Regulatory State

By George Hoberg | Go to book overview

7
REGIME VULNERABILITY AND POLICY RETRENCHMENT: PESTICIDE REGULATION, 1975-1980

Compared to the air pollution case, the pesticide regulatory regime was not nearly as robust in the face of the challenges of the latter half of the 1970s. Starting from a vastly weaker position, EPA pesticide regulation was much more vulnerable to Congressional intervention and industry pressure. In the case of air pollution, Congress was constantly urging an already overextended agency to do more to reduce pollution. In the case of pesticides, Congress aggressively sought to dampen whatever regulatory initiatives were attempted by the agency. This contrast is powerful testimony to the importance of Congressional committee jurisdiction in regulatory policy making.

This chapter opens with an extensive analysis of a major episode in administrative law making. After plodding through three cumbersome trial-like hearings, EPA sought to develop a more systematic approach to regulating pesticides. The generic rule adopted was a surprisingly pro-environment measure. The new regulatory guidelines would have signaled a major defeat for industry, but they were never fully implemented.

The second section surveys developments in the Congress- EPA relationship over this period. It shows how vigilant oversight and three episodes of statutory revision weakened EPA's policy instruments and shackled the agency with procedural encumbrances deliberately designed to impede agency action.1 Several investigations from the periphery of the regime castigated EPA for massive regulatory failure, uncovering an appalling absence of knowledge on which regulation could be based. These challenges were not influential when Congress went to amend the regulatory statute.

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