Transformation of Congressional Lawmaking by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 and Its Effects
25 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2020 Last revised: 29 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 6, 2020
From the 19th Century to the early 1970s the U.S. was consistently at the frontier of publicly relevant technology and policy advances. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 (CAA) continued this tradition. However, the CAA transformed conventions for Congressional lawmaking in ways that had unintended negative effects on federal government operations, environmental management, and U.S. society.
The CAA’s bipartisan framers came together at a time of environmental crisis and skepticism over federal regulators’ stewardship over the nation’s environment. Manufacturing and industry were prime sources of pollution. The framers feared that the formers’ economic and political power would influence regulators. The CAA therefore broke previous norms for lawmaking by giving the Environmental Protection Agency comprehensive national authority over air pollution and prescribing operational detail. In effect, Congress became the sheriff and the Environmental Protection Agency became the summons server for environmental policy.
With powerful teeth, the CAA of 1970 and subsequent laws influenced by CAA precedents achieved rapid progress in controlling pollution. However, they replaced trust in federal agencies and cooperation between government and the private sector by regulations and punitive provisions, arousing antagonism in the business community. The results included deindustrialization, with mass exodus of business from manufacturing; litigiousness; barriers to innovation in environmental technology and policy; and perpetual battle over environmental regulation. Attempts by business and conservative-linked groups to reform regulatory policy were unsuccessful because they mainly sought inhibitions on the regulatory process. They failed to consider deep concerns of the environmental community and fundamental flaws in the regulatory system.
Keywords: Environmental policy, regulation, Congressional lawmaking, polarization, environment, Clean Air Act Amendments
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