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Respecting EPA

May 2009

Citation: ELR 10365

Author: Jonathan Cannon

When President Richard M. Nixon created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, his vision was of "a strong, independent agency." The first EPA Administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus, established three principles for the Agency: (1) support for the scientific process and reliance on scientific results; (2) adherence to rule of law, including faithful implementation and enforcement of environmental laws; and (3) avoidance of excessive politicization. These principles have guided EPA leadership and decisionmaking for much of the Agency's history, in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Obvious and significant departures from them at EPA under the Administration of President George W. Bush, however, raise questions about whether these principles are compatible with the current preference for presidential administration, whether we can hope for their resurrection in future EPAs, and whether we should. This Comment briefly documents this most recent chapter of EPA's history, tries to understand its significance, and suggests a future path for White House relations with EPA (and perhaps by extension other executive branch agencies with significant regulatory responsibilities involving technical or scientific expertise).

Jonathan Cannon is the Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law and Director, Environmental and Land Use Law Program, University of Virginia School of Law.

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