Environmental Regulations Do They Make a Difference?
PHS 100 Professor David Terrell April 30, 2009
Environmental regulations are rules or legal restrictions handed down inthe form of policy, intended to maintain and sustain our environmental quality. There is no question that population growth and advanced technology have escalated concern with respect to depletion of our natural resources and the condition of the world water and air supply. The government has taken many steps towards regulating how we utilize our resources in order to sustain them for future generations. But the question remains whether the cost spent to initiate and control these regulations outweighs the desired effects.An example of an agency well known for its commitment to preserving our environment is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This agency was developed as a result of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) signed into law by President Nixon in 1970. The EPA is focused on “conducting and evaluating research, monitoring environmental quality, setting and enforcing standards for pollution levels, assisting the states in meeting standards and goals, and educating the public.” (Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. 2008, p 68)The EPA has been involved in setting policy in a variety of critical areas including air pollution, water, food toxins, and issues surrounding asbestos, radon, and lead. The policy process includes identifying the environmental problem, pinpointing specific causes of the problem, setting goals to eliminate or stabilize the problem, getting organized by gaining support of officials, and managing the development of the policy (p 74).This agency has received some negative publicity when implementing policies. One public criticism is that the EPA uses adult standards for their linear response curves when testing toxicity. It is suggested that this eliminates the potential response to exposure to children and infants who may be susceptible to hazards much quicker because of their size and weight.
Another negative response given to the EPA is the fact that they use risk management in their decision making. Risk management is a strategy to minimize risk but it can be difficult to compare or measure cost versus benefit consistently. Benefit value is based on economic results and cost value is related to health. (pg 403). In the 1980’s, some began to complain that environmental regulations were causing an unfair tax burden and the government began to relax the enforcement of some of its policies. Our current political situation suggests a new form of environmental policy in the making that will focus on sustainability.Environmental regulations are here to stay. Regardless of the political party in place or other world events that may take immediate precedence, the benefits of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency appear to be making a difference to our environment. Most of my research done was in reading the class text and in reviewing articles or government websites online. My goal was to get an accurate description of the purpose of the agency, their mission statement, and their roles and agenda, to make an informed decision on my view of environmental regulations.By all accounts, the United States is succeeding in eliminating or decreasing much of our concern with respect to waste and pollution because of agencies such as the EPA. These agencies continue to research current environmental conditions, use scientific knowledge as part of their commitment and decision for change, formulate responses to new concerns, and implement policies to initiate action. I chose to comment specifically on the EPA in this paper because of its extensive involvement in all areas of our environment such as air, water, human health, waste and pollution, climate, and green living issues. Their website has a wealth of information with respect to their current programs and twice a year, they provide a report that summarizes their various programs and past achievements. Although I cannot speak to the accountability of the funds used for these projects and I cannot confirm that taxpayer’s money is always used wisely in all situations, it does appear that the benefits outweigh the cost. We just need to take a walk, look up at the sky, and take a deep breath to know there is a difference.
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2008). Environment: The science behind thestories (3rd ed.). New York, Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
Retrieved April 27, 2009 on http://www.epa.gov/epahome/aboutepa.htm