As EPA Embarks on Dangerous Experiment in Federalism, How Will States Respond?

by Evan Isaacson | March 20, 2017

In the early 1970s, Congress passed the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act on nearly unanimous votes. The overwhelming support for these new laws reflected not only the horrific condition of America’s air, water, and landscape at the time, but also an appreciation of the collective action problem states faced, necessitating federal action.

The major environmental laws that passed in the following years were predicated on the need to set a federal floor for environmental standards in order to provide all Americans with a basic right to clean air, safe water, and a healthy environment, no matter the state they lived in. The laws also represented an understanding that states were no more likely to act alone in investing in new regulatory programs than a business would be to self-regulate without corresponding action from its competitors.

The clear consensus, then, was that the federal government must act to end the race to the bottom among states, setting minimum standards for all 50 states that some could then choose to exceed. Fast forward 40-plus years, and we must now contemplate what happens when the federal government takes a sledgehammer to the regulatory floor.

The new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, made his bones as a champion of the federalist approach to environmental regulation. And even though this ideological cloak is one that Pruitt will be quick to doff when it suits his true guiding interest in deregulation, we can ...

Environmental Federalism and Scott Pruitt -- We've Been Here Before

by Evan Isaacson | February 27, 2017
The ascension of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ushers in a new chapter in the long story of cooperative federalism in the administration of U.S. environmental laws. Pruitt's words and actions as the Attorney General of Oklahoma suggest that, as much as any other issue, idea, or policy, federalism will be a recurring theme. But are the cries about federalism really about finding the proper balance of state and federal roles in implementation of our ...

Climate Legislation Federalism Choices: Reflections After Murkowski, Brown and in Anticipation of the Forthcoming Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Bill

by William Buzbee | April 01, 2010
Federalism battles over state roles under federal climate legislation may have appeared settled, but they are once again under debate. The previous leading bills–the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House, and the Boxer-Kerry bill passed out of a committee in the Senate–lost momentum several months ago. After several months of legislative inaction, Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have been working on a new piece of climate legislation. After the senators’ comments indicated that this bill might broadly undercut state and ...

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