The Institute for Policy Integrity produces three types of publications: policy briefs, reports, and working papers. Geared to an audience of political decisionmakers, our policy briefs provide incisive and focused analysis on timely policy topics. Our report series develops deeper research and examination of our core issues. Our working papers give an opportunity for extensive and original scholarly research and analysis from established experts as well as fresh new voices.
Inconsistent Positions and Missed Opportunities
This Essay examines and explains the positions of the principal interest groups over the past four decades with respect to the two central questions of environmental policy: the appropriate policy goal and the instrument that should be used to carry out the policy. While environmental groups and industry have largely switched positions on the two central questions of environmental policy, the points at which their positions overlapped were fleeting, and opportunities to make substantial progress in rationalizing the system of environmental regulation have largely been unrealized.
This essay argues that U.S. environmental policy should operate in accordance with five major components of rationality: cost-benefit analysis; cost minimization; flexible market-based instruments; constraints on grandfathering; and the sensible allocation of decision-making authority between the federal government and the states. This past Term, the Supreme Court decided two significant cases, which together should be seen as producing a move toward rationality in environmental policy.
The United States Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases (GHGs) were an “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act in its ruling on Massachusetts v. EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since taken steps to regulate GHGs under a rarely utilized provision of the Clean Air Act, section 111(d). Despite the text printed in the U.S. Code, the true text of section 111(d) is in doubt. This is because of a small but potentially significant legislating error that occurred during the creation of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, when the Senate and House of Representatives made different revisions to section 111(d), both of which were passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. This paper analyzes whether the conflicting amendments to section 111(d) will prove to be a problem or an opportunity for EPA in its efforts to regulate GHGs.