The Golden Age of Environmental Regulatory Policy

Read the full post at The Environmental Citizen.

As I find myself becoming an old environmentalist I think more and more of the 1990’s as a golden age in which regulatory programs were innovating. Of course it was not really a golden age – the House was earnestly trying to dismantle environmental protection. But at this time the EPA and relevant state agencies were transforming themselves creatively, responding to widespread discomfort with overreliance on “command and control”, which involves authorities telling people what to do and hunting down violators. This is of course necessary – for some – but agencies were showing then that they knew not everyone is a willful violator, and that there are reservoirs of good will that can be tapped to generate willing compliance. They were starting to provide help to those who don’t have the time to develop an understanding of very complex rules. They were realizing they could sometimes get companies to adopt cleaner practices by helping them.

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