This paper critically analyses some aspects of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory policies. It develops themes that explain how the analysis illustrates important features of EPA’s regulatory policy process. The introduction section introduces the main concepts of regulatory policies, particularly with respect to the Environment Protection Agency. It also examines the formation of EPA as well as its goals and objectives. The main body discusses specific issues of the topic that help in its exhaustive analysis. It examines how EPA has undertaken the development of its regulations, as well as how it interacts with the public, interest groups and political groups. The paper further examines how EPA’s experience illustrates its regulatory policy making process. Finally, the main body examines EPA’s unique features that have helped it achieve its goals and objectives. The final part of the paper, the conclusion, summarizes the main ideas of the paper and identifies the key aspects of EPA’s regulatory policies.
Protection of the environment is among the most complex and critical issues faced by many nations worldwide, including the United States. A number of questions have been raised by many audiences such as concerned citizens, watershed organizations and local government officials about the fast-changing environmental policies.
In the US, the body in charge of environmental management issues is known as the Environmental Protection Agency, usually abbreviated as EPA or USEPA. EPA is a federal agency whose mandate is regulation of chemicals and protection of human health through safeguarding of the natural environment, which includes land, water and air. It was formed in 1970 and has since been responsible for all the environment policies of the United States.
EPA carries out environmental education, research and assessment among other key roles. It is mainly responsible for the setting and enforcement of national standards under various environmental laws. The agency works in close consultation with local, tribal as well as state governments in its quest to carry out its mandate.
Moreover, it delegates some functions and responsibilities such as enforcement, monitoring and permitting to Native American tribes and the various US states. Some of the agency’s enforcement powers are sanctions, fines and many other measures. It also works hand in hand with all government levels and industries in various voluntary programs aimed at preventing pollution, as well as energy conservation efforts.
The competition between political forces and expert forces in the process of shaping output, procedures and bureaucratic policies is characterized by environmental policy making. EPA finds itself at the center of this competition between forces, yet it is expected to address all environmental protection and management issues.
The Environmental Protection Agency
Wherever EPA is concerned, bureaucratic politics takes an entirely new meaning, different from the traditional one. The competition between political forces and expert forces in their quest to shape procedures, output and bureaucratic is characterized by the environmental policy making (Riley and Brophy-Baermann, 2005).
Whereas competition as well as differing priorities is easily found in other policy-making arenas, EPA’s actions directly and indirectly affect more people in the society than all the other agencies. The level of EPA’s influence puts it in a position where it can touch on everyone’s activities all the time. This sort of bureaucratic reach is, to some, a cure and, to others a nuisance. This is the essence of what is awfully wrong with the government or the essence of what government is about (Riley and Brophy-Baermann, 2005).
Alternatively, EPA has been envisaged as an agency that advances against the pollution or the spread of invasive species all through the government environment. It has also been perceived as an agency that takes up residence and causes destruction anywhere it can find a vulnerable spot in the United States Code (Riley and Brophy-Baermann, 2005).
How EPA has developed its regulations and how it has interacted with the public, interest groups, and political institutions
In the 1960s, the United States was going through environmental and gross pollution problems. Industrial discharges and raw sewage spilling into rivers was the order if the day. Moreover, air pollution from stationary and mobile sources was more intense than it is today. Toxic waste issues greatly dominated headlines in the 1960s in the United States as well as other parts of the world.
As a reaction to these problems, the public organized and put pressure on the political system, and the politicians had no other option but to respond. This led to the creation of EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality at national level (Riley and Brophy-Baermann, 2005). Other agencies with a similar mandate were also created in the various states all through United States. Shortly after, numerous environmental regulations and laws followed to augment these bodies.
The environment, unlike many other public issues, has drawn high levels of commitment and public awareness from the time of EPA’s formation to the present. Public opinion polls have consistently indicated that the public is greatly concerned for a clean and safe environment. Events in the late 1980s have only served to raise the concerns to an even higher level. Today, again, there is a strong and predictable political response towards environmental matters.
The public’s concern for its environment in the US is as a result of the new environmental issues brought about by the presidential election of 1988. The publicity that global warming received during the 1988 summer, together with intense drought and heat had a great contribution. Moreover, the television images of medical waste that closed beaches from one coast to another proved to be more than the politicians and the public in general could bear. For the very first time, the environment was a vital issue during a presidential campaign.
EPA is in the middle of the public awareness on the importance of the environment and the increasing demand for action. The agency carries the nation’s frustrations, concerns and hope as far as the environment is concerned. Today’s EPA is not the same as that of the 1970s in that it displays more maturity. Moreover, it focuses more on public health than it did about twenty years ago.
In spite of its commitment, a number of concerns have been raised about the future of EPA. This is mainly because the turmoil of 1980s left abiding and deep scars on it. It greatly affected the agency’s ability to effectively interact with Congress in the definition of its goals and missions. This turmoil contributed to the breaking of ties of trust necessary between the public and an agency such as EPA. These ties of trust are vital if the agency’s judgment is to be trusted and if the agency is to remain confident in itself. A self-confident EPA and public trust must be present if any true progress is to be made with regard to environmental protection and management.
Additionally, the high level of politicization and the turmoil has caused bitterness and stridency in the environmental debate, which was not heard in the 1970s. EPA has often found itself as the focal point of political and public rancor. Industry, environmental groups and Congress engage in wide-scale bashing of the EPA even in the pursuit of their own agendas. This has led to the public and institutions losing trust in the agency even further. This situation has further been attributed to highly dedicated and competent civil servants opting out of government service due to frustration (Riley and Brophy-Baermann, 2005).
As EPA became a vulnerable and inviting public target, it also attracted inevitable legislative response. Environmental legislation’s history in the 1980s is distinguished by the Congress’ lack of trust in EPA. This can be seen by the legislature setting impossible goals for EPA and stripping away the agency’s administrative discretion from its managers.
These goals often give political mileage to the enforcers although their extreme nature only ensures practical failure. This has resulted in more EPA bashing, inability to achieve goals, unfulfilled purity promises and missed deadlines. This is followed by the setting of even more strict goals; the mistrust spiral between the parties therefore continues.
How EPA’s experience illustrates the regulatory policy making process
It is almost not possible to look at any policy’s implementation, and avoid seeing the influence and impact of public bureaucracies (Gormley and Balla, 2007). This is the position that EPA finds itself in; at the center of two great forces-the expert forces and the political forces. In spite of this, the agency is still expected to carry out its mandate effectively.
Considering the accountability the bureaucracies owe the US public as well as its importance, public bureaucracies’ performance must be evaluated in a structured manner. In order to comprehensively assess performance, the concerned entity must work through four principal perspectives namely network theory, interest group mobilization, and principal agent theory and bounded rationality (Gormley and Balla, 2007). These four perspectives are often referred to as the give-and-take between individuals, organized interest groups, elected officials, managers and decision makers (Gormley and Balla, 2007).
EPA’s unique features
The most remarkable feature about EPA is that it performs just as well as other government institutions, if not better. However, it must be provided with adequate resources, realistic and well-defined goals to achieve this performance. Looking at the EPA’s history, it has made an impressive progress in the clean up of the past’s gross pollution problems and the addressing of more intricate issues regarding toxic environmental pollution. This is not to say that there have not been missteps since not all reasonable goals have been achieved. But generally, the environmental record in the US is just as good as anywhere else in the world, if not better.
The condition of the United States harbors and rivers would be pathetic had the nation not embarked on a program to treat their sewage in the 1970s. Additionally, the Clean Water Act’s vigorous enforcement in the 1980s went a long way in checking water pollution. This it did successfully despite the competition between expert and political forces.
Moreover, the Clean Air Act helped clean up the US skies through the restriction of automobile pollution band the control of smoke emission. Air-borne lead, one of the greatest health threats to the society has now virtually been eliminated from the American skies. The EPA has been able to achieve all these despite the numerous setbacks it encounters.
Given a choice between chaos and authoritarianism, people will always choose the latter. Whether environmental problems can be addressed within a system of economic or political freedom remains an open question. Is freedom really the banner to which all things should be repaired? That is certainly the question worldwide and the United States’ challenge. The world is hopeful that it will some day celebrate the success of having attained expended freedom, enhanced development and above all, a livable environment.
This paper carried out an in-depth analysis on some aspects of regulatory policies of agencies such as the EPA. EPA has developed its regulations through pressure from the public, interest groups and political institutions. These three forces have extreme expectations of EPA. The agency’s experience with these stakeholders has usually resulted setting of unattainable goals for the agency. The paper concludes that many aspects of the regulation policies of these agencies are influenced by expert forces as well as political forces. In spite of all the shortcomings, EPA has continued to forge ahead in carrying out its mandate effectively and efficiently.
Eisner, M et al (2006) Contemporary regulatory policy (2nd ed) Lynne Reinner, Boulder, CO
Gormley, W and Balla, S (2007) Bureaucracy and democracy-Accountability and performance (2nd ed.), CQ Press: Washington, DC
Riley, D and Brophy-Baermann, B (2005) Bureaucracy and the policy process, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield