American Environmental Politics

by David Howard Davis
Nelson Hall - Cengage*

Book coverChapter 1. Introduction: Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring at her summer home in Maine. Environmental policy may be understood in four ways.

1. Mass movements: LoiGibbs mobilized her neighbors to fight the toxic dump at Love Canal. Examples of grassroots organizations include Friends of the Jerome Park Reservoir, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

2. Interest Groups are active in the area. The best known are the Sierra Club, the Friends of the Earth, the Earth Island Institute, the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). David Brower led three of them. Much opposition to environmental protection comes from industry. The American Petroleum Institute (API), Exxon, the Edison Electric Institute, General Motors, Chrysler and the American Chemistry Council.

3. Political Parties: At the present, the Democratic Party is more favorable towards the environment and the Republican Party is less favorable. The League of Conservation Voters keeps a scorecard. The Green Party, a small third party, nominated Ralph Nader to run for president in 2000, and he took away enough votes from Al Gore to give the election to George Bush.  It did not renominate him in 2004.

4. Governmental Procedures influence policy. For example the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The US Environmental Protection Agency administers most laws in the area. An example of bureaucratic procedures that affect their administration is organizing the agency into air and water divisions. Another procedure is to delegate programs to state agencies like the Ohio EPA. The US Department of the Interior runs programs on land management and surface mining. 

Chapter 2. Air Pollution control comes under the provisions of the 1970 Clean Air Act and is administered by the Air Office of EPA. The American Lung Association is an interest group on one side and industries like auto manufacturing (Ford Motor Company) and the highway construction are on the other. The UAW supports the auto manufacturers. The largest local control program is the South Coast District in California; the New York City department is also large. The Clean Air Council is a citizens group in PennsylvaniaAcid rain originates in the Ohio Valley and afflicts northern New York, New England and Quebec. The danger of  global climate change concerns many: CRS, CAN, the Edison Electric Institute, skeptics and opponents. Following the Bush Administration policy, EPA minimizes the problem.

Chapter 3. Water Pollution control comes under the provisions of the 1972 Clean Water Act and administered by the water division of EPA. The Izaak Walton League, Trout Unlimited and COOL are interest groups on one side and industries like steel are on the other. EPA has a program for the Great Lakes. The Wetlands Inventory and the Regulation Center; the Everglades. The American Water Works Association consists of companies that build treatment plants. The Bureau of Reclamation builds dams in the west. Municipal water departments in Chicago , Los Angeles and Atlanta

Hurricane Katrina put the Army Corps of Engineers in the spotlight. It is responsible for levees, canals and dredging. The key agency for rescue is FEMA. Prof. Patrick Haughey of the University of New Orleans.

The Three Gorges Project in China will be the world's largest. Critics include Probe and IRN

Chapter 4. Hazardous, Toxic and Solid Waste come under several laws including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (Superfund ) with major amendments in 1986 (SARA). The EPA divisions are the offices of Solid Waste and Prevention Pesticides and Toxic Substances. The USDA Agricultural Research Service . The Environmental Working Group is an interest group on one side and industries like the Dow chemical company are on the other. A group seeking to Clean Up GE.  Lois Gibbs, who organized opposition at Love Canal, runs the Clearing House for Health, Environment Justice  Search your community by zip code for hazards. The Recycling Network.

Chapter 5. Radiation comes under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 with many amendments. The regulatory agency is the NRC . The EPA Radiation office supervises environmental standards for radiation. The Department of Energy operates storage sites. The Yucca Mountain Project. Greenpeace and Critical Mass criticize the government.

Nuclear Winter is the term first used about 1982 for the phenomenon that would occur after a nuclear war when smoke from burning cities and oil wells would obscure sunlight so that plants could not grow. The consequence would be starvation for most plants and animals, including humans. Information from Carl Sagan and Answers and an animation. At present the United States is building the National Missile Defense, nicknamed Star Wars. Information from the Pentagon and Federation of American Scientists

Chapter 6. Endangered Species and Wilderness: The American Museum of Natural History , Geo Cities and EE . The United States has 104 million acres of wilderness areas. The Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), all in the Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture all manage wilderness areas. The Wilderness Society was established in 1936 to advocate the concept. Opposition comes from ranchers and timber companies. Ecotourism and the jungle in Peru and the Red Centre of Australia.

Chapter 7. Parks: National parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Sleeping Bear Dunes are managed by the National Park Service in the Interior Department. States run parks like Maumee Bay and cities run parks. Environmentalists organize to protect parks like Yellowstone, the Indiana dunes, and Yosemite (Fund and Hetch Hetchy restoration). Photos of Yellowstone from the UM School of Forestry and Total. A history of the park. The Adirondack Park in New York and state agencies in Michigan, Missouri and Texas. Parks in Boston, Chicago, the Detroit area, Portland, San Francisco and Toledo. In New York City, citizens support Central Park, and in Oregon, they support Silver Falls State Park.

Chapter 8. Land is managed by the US BLM for 270 million acres, chiefly in the West and Alaska. The Office of Surface Mining regulates coal mining. American Forests seeks to preserve forests. Corporations like Boise Cascade and the Peabody Coal Company advocate being good citizens. The Wise Use Movement wants to protect property rights. Others are concerned about taking private property.  Earth First! is a radical group. Locally municipalities and counties manage land through zoning and formal planning. The subject of land use is filled with conflict at every level. Many farmers earn subsidies from the Department of Agriculture. Gifford Pinchot was the first director of the Forest Service.

Chapter 9. Population: The United Nations and the US Agency for International Development (AID) run programs to promote population control. Planned Parenthood and the Population Council are private organizations that favor international programs to control population. The official Chinese family planning commission and its critics in the Bush Administration. Population Research Institute opposes them. The population clock from the Census Bureau.

Green Parties are active in many western democracies. The German Green Party is the most successful having won seats in parliament for many years and having been part of the governing coalition until the 2005 election. The Green Party in the United States. An overview of British and European parties comes from Cardiff Wales.

Resources from Enviro Link, Earth Portal and the National Council for Science and the Environment. News from ENN . Environmental agencies in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Eco-feminism. Environmental policy in China.     

Return to the author or to the Environmental Policy course .

* Note: Cengage acquired Nelson Hall.  Order from Cengage. The ISBN is 0 8304 1518 1. Page last modified August 27, 2010.

Last Updated: 8/8/17