Cover image for The Environmental Protection Agency : asking the wrong questions
The Environmental Protection Agency : asking the wrong questions
Landy, Marc Karnis.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xiv, 309 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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TD171 .L36 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book focuses on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to explore critical problems of modern government and democratic politics. The volume chronicles the EPA from its founding in 1970 to the end of the Reagan Administration. Its centerpiece is a set of five specific cases, each of which explores a different dimension of the agency's activities. The performance of the agency is judged on the basis of four specific standards: fidelity to technical merits, promoting civic education, responsiveness to the public, and building institutional capacity. The authors view the central task of the agency's senior officials to be the promotion of three critical processes that foster those values: deliberation, integration, and accountability. Departing from the narrow focus upon specific outcomes that has dominated the academic study of public policy, the text argues that public officials have a deeper responsibility to preserve and promote the constitutional democracy. They ought not try to tell citizens what to think. But they should use their stature and expertise to frame questions so that public debate can be made coherent and intelligible. They must tease out the essential social and ethical issues from the welter of scientific data and legal formalisms in which those issues are enveloped. The book seeks to uncover the mistaken premises that have clouded and distorted debate about environmental policy and have led to some poor policy decisions. It depicts the serious consequences which have resulted from asking the wrong questions and discusses what questions the EPA should be encouraged to ask, and answer, and how the agency can be encouraged to do so.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Using five case studies and the perspectives of political science and public administration, the authors evaluate performance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from its formation in 1970 to the end of the Carter administration. Four criteria are applied: responsiveness to the public, fidelity to the technical merits, civic education, and capacity building. "EPA's most serious shortcomings involved public education. Whether it was deciding how much to clean up a dump site, classifying chemicals as carcinogens, or choosing what effects of ozone to avoid, . . .citizens were encouraged to believe that questions were much simpler than in fact they were." Privileged access to senior EPA officials and candid interviews have provided an insider's view, rich with details of conflict. (Too rich, at times, with emphasis on US politics and bureaucratic infighting: greater distancing from personalities might have produced more constructive insight.) The final chapters are disappointing ; they fail to deliver on the promise of analysis and better questions. A bitter review of the Reagan years does not make the book current. More than 70 of the material appears to have been assembled by 1982. Thorough footnotes. Recommended for advanced undergraduates and above. -D. W. Larson, University of Regina

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
2 The Origins and Development of the Environmental Protection Agency
3 Revising the Ozone Standard
4 Writing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Regulations
5 Passing Superfund
6 Forging a Cancer Policy: The Interagency Regulatory Liaison
7 The Steel Industry and Enforcing the Clean Air Act
8 The Reagan Administration
9 The Wrong Questions and Why
10 Good Questions