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Reinventing Environmental Regulation: The Only Path to a Sustainable Future

March 1999

Citation: ELR 10148

Author: Karl Hausker

Editors' Summary: In response to the debate on ways in which our environmental protection system should be improved, Enterprise for the Environment, Yale University, and the National Academy of Public Administration each issued "next generation" reports calling for evolutionary change of the current system. In the July 1998 issue of ELR's News & Analysis, Rena I. Steinzor presented a critique of those reports in a Dialogue entitled Reinventing Environmental Regulation: Back to the Past by Way of the Future and concluded that implementing the ideas set forth therein would likely degrade the quality of the environment. In this Dialogue, Karl Hausker responds to Steinzor's critique. It addresses the issues raised in that critique and finds that while it raised legitimate concerns regarding next generation policies, the critique more often mischaracterized the reports' contents in order to support its conclusions. First, the author discusses the reports' recommendations for a goal and milestone approach to environmental regulation. Contrary to the findings set forth in Steinzor's critique, the author argues that the CAA NAAQS and the FWPCA total maximum daily load programs reinforce rather than undermine this approach. The author further argues that the reports' call for better information and data systems is feasible, and he describes some of these systems that are already being built. The author also examines the reports' recommendations for a more integrated, multimedia system and for an expanded set of policy tools. The author concludes that adhering to the next generation of environmental policy advocated in the reports is the only sustainable path to the future.

Karl Hausker is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, India. From 1995-1998, he was Project Director of the Enterprise for the Environment at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is grateful for comments on a draft of this Dialogue from Daniel C. Esty, Michael C. Farrar, Rich Innes, DeWitt John, Debra S. Knopman, Andrew D. Otis, William D. Ruckelshaus, and Robert M. Sussman. Any remaining errors are the author's alone.

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