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The Antideficiency Act: A Deficient Excuse for Federal Violation of Environmental Laws?

August 1993

Citation: ELR 10481

Author: David B. Kopel

Editors' Summary: The Antideficiency Act embodies the constitutional mandate that only Congress is empowered to appropriate public funds. The Act prohibits officers and employees of the United States from spending or contracting to spend funds which have not been duly appropriated by Congress. It therefore may serve to excuse the federal government's failure to comply with or enforce environmental statutes when Congress has not made a specific appropriation for that purpose.

In this Article, the author traces the development of the Antideficiency Act and explores the limits and exceptions to its mandate. He proposes several constitutional and administrative theories under which environmental plaintiffs might force federal compliance with environmental statutes despite the Act's prohibitions. The author concludes that application of these theories will ultimately benefit not only the environment, but the U.S. Constitution and the Act itself.

Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute, a public policy research organization in Denver, Colorado. He formerly served as an assistant attorney general, Hazardous Waste Unit, Colorado Attorney General's Office. He received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School (1985) and his B.A. from Brown University (1982). Opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.

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