sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Joel Schwartz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, just recently released his report, Finding Better Ways to Cleaner Air (PDF download). Schwartz maintains those ways are certainly not through the

"compulsively detailed administrative system that places process and centralized power ahead of results and devotes great resources toward small, expensive slow and ineffective pollution reduction measures."

Schwartz maintains that air quality has indeed improved since the passage of the Clean air Act in 1970. (Who was president at the time? Nixon, I believe.) Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence stating the cleaner air is a direct result of the CAA.

With that in mind, Schwartz says the biggest problem with federalized air pollution control is it has become heavily bureaucratized. He's not necessarily knocking federal mandates on air quality. All the federal government would have to do, he says, is dictate the standards, attainment levels and penalties for failure.

"Such a Clean Air Act could be written in a few pages and would require few or no EPA regulations," Schwartz writes.

Instead, "the Clean Air Act is hundreds of pages long, and EPA has written thousands of pages of regulations to implement CAA requirements, along with tens of thousands of pages of guidance documents to explain what the regulations mean."

Such a process is an overbearing burden on industry. Schwartz quotes law professor David Schoenbrod, who says, "Clients can't help but violate the law, no matter how hard they try, because the legal requirements are too confusing and complex...The point of this compulsory system is power, not environmental quality."

What do Schwartz and Schoenbrod propose? Returning air pollution regulation to the states, except in the case of interstate pollution. Such a move would "require air pollution policy to be made by legislators closer to the people affected by the laws they enact."

Even at the federal level, legislators should be given more power to enforce pollution policy instead of an administrative body like the EPA. As with local legislators, federal lawmakers would feel the sting of unpoplar environmental policy.

Last, in cases where there is real injury, make the penalty severe. But do away with criminal and civil penalties for violating administrative requirements.

If you have the computer power, check out the report. It's a different view of maintaining air quality in this country from what you read in the newspapers.


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