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Environmental Policies in the United States

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The United States places a strong focus on environmental policy. The government involves itself heavily in the regulation and preservation of the natural environment. This sample essay explores the ways in which the government enforces and uses environmental policy for the betterment of society at large and is part of the many essay writing services offered by Ultius.

Environmental Policies in the United States


Environmental policies in the United States are government guidelines intended to regulate all activities that are likely to have an environmental impact in the country. The natural environment is of high significance not only in the USA, but rather the world over. The various components of the environment characterize a self-supporting ecosystem. Environmental conservation is important for the sustenance of this ecosystem. However, the environmental is highly susceptible to external activities. In particular, human activities tend to affect the environment to a high degree. Due to the fragility of the environment, it is necessary to enact policies that will ensure sustainable use of the environment. Sustainable use guarantees the freedom of the current generation in using environmental resources, such as wind energy, and at the same time safeguarding the environmental interests of future generations. 

Policy tools

Policy tools are evaluation instruments that are used to monitor and control changes to the environment. There are two major types of policy tools that are used in relation to the environment, rules and inducements. In the USA, rules are the policy tool of choice. This is evidenced by the many laws and regulations. This is through performance standards and design standards. The difference between the two types of standards is that performance standards set out certain hazardous levels with the choice of how to meet them left to those whom they affect. On the other hand, design standards provide guidance on how performance standards are to be met.

Environment policy jurisdiction and power delegation

There are two main areas under Environment policy jurisdiction and power delegation:

  1. The executive branch is highly fragmented when it comes to dealing with issues of environment protection. This has a profound impact on cost and effectiveness of policy implementation. This is because almost all executive departments have their own sections dealing with environmental issues (Rushefsky, 2012).
  2. The legislative branch, there is also a lot of fragmentation, with the various roles of overseeing environment policies being taken up by the state and the congress. The legislative role is executed in committees and agencies including the Committee on Agriculture, Committee on Appropriations, and Committee on Nutrition and Forestry among others.

History of environmental policies in the United States

Environmental laws come in the form of state or federal laws. Environmental policies in the United States have a long history dating back to the emergency of the environmental movement. Over the decades, many of the presidents have left their footprints in the area of environmental conservation.

Contributions of Nixon

During the Nixon administration, president Nixon signed into law the National Environment Policy Act, an act which led to the establishment of the Council of Environmental Quality. This was in the year 1970, and later in the same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was created (Rushefsky, 2012).  This Agency consolidated the functions of many of the other agencies dealing with environmental management. During this period, a number of environmental issues and concerns were addressed. These included:

Perhaps one of the most significant gains during this period was the development of catalytic converters. This invention helped to curb the cases of air pollution through exhaust emissions from vehicles (Rushefsky, 2012). This was in line with the requirements of the Clean Air Act, which set deadlines and penalties for automobile emissions in new cars, prompting car developers to become innovative.

Contributions of Reagan and Bush

The next administration was the Reagan administration between 1981 and 1989. This is discussed together with what was done during President George Bush regime in 1989 to 1993. During the Reagan administration, there was a significant decline in the harshness of the tone towards environmental matters. The measures taken, and the appointments made, characterized a hostile attitude towards environmental protection. The EPA had its budget cut. Writing and interpretation of environmental regulations was carried out in such a way that it favored industries. This was through a strategy of regulatory relief (Rushefsky, 2012). Ultimately, the Office of Management and Budget was granted authority to author regulations. During his second tenure, efforts against environmental protection were stepped up. The Bush administration, however, reversed this trend. Bush appointed members with strong environmental inclinations into positions at EPA. However, two years down the line, Bush severely restricted new regulations. He also set up the council of competitiveness, which had its mandate as the negotiator of regulatory relief with the Federal government.

Recent presidential contributions

  1. The Clinton administration came in after, and more progress was made (Graham, 2010). One of the first steps that they took was to scrap off the council of competitiveness. Though he faced criticism for his support of several free trade agreements, Clinton was also heralded for a number of accomplishments. First, he signed the Kyoto protocol. He is also credited with the establishment of the President’s council on Development. Finally, Clinton increased funding for the EPA.  
  2. The next president, George W. Bush, left a significant environmental legacy. One of the most important is the introduction of the Clear Skies Initiative, which was intended to remove the New Source Review, which was a safeguard against air pollution (Barcott, 2008). He refused to sign the Kyoto protocol and also rescinded on his election promise to reduce carbon emissions from coal plants. He is, however, credited with CAIR (Clean Air Interstate Rule) and CAMR (Clean Air Mercury Rule).
  3. The final president along this line is Obama. He received backing from many environmental groups and is credited with the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, one which is aimed at the preservation of natural features (Scenic, 2009). He also contributed to the prosecution to those responsible for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Environmental issues

Environmental issues in the United States have been changing gradually as time progresses. In the past efforts were directed to prevent air and water pollution, but this has since changed.

  1. Ozone layer depletion - This refers to the reduction in the concentration of the Stratosphere. Ozone depletion is dangerous since the Ozone plays a vital role in shielding the earth against dangerous UV radiations. The depletion is a tribute to the use of CFCs, which have subsequently been banned. One of the most significant instances is the Antarctic ozone hole (Schauffer et al., 2005).
  2. Acid deposition - This can be either as acid rain or dry deposition. The acids arise from sulfur and nitrogen dioxide in the air (Barcott, 2008). These gases come from fossil fuel combustion.
  3. Hazardous wastes - These result from emissions by small companies and large ones alike. They can result in mortality, irreversible illnesses or incapacitating but reversible illnesses (Barcott, 2008).
  4. Risk control policy - This refers to the use of risk assessment and risk management methods in order to control risks. Risk control policies are of major concern, due to the dynamic nature of human risks.


Environmental policies are known to have positive results, but some people feel that this comes at a great cost. One key issue is that of the environmental impacts of bottled water. In line with this, it is necessary to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of environmental policies. This would aim at calculating the costs associated with protection measures, and assessing them against the benefits accruing from the measures. However, Pizer and Kopp (2005) indicate that it is not very easy to estimate costs accurately. This is particularly because of the lack of clarity in terms of what should be included as a cost. The policies have, however, been effective in ensuring more sanitary conditions. For example, due to pollution standards, more than 700 billion pounds have been kept from USA rivers every year. Thus, though a monetary analysis may not be possible, the holistic approach proves to be way better in appraising the impact of regulation (NRDC, 2013).


Environmental regulation in the USA is predominantly achieved through the use of rules. The process of making and executing these rules is highly fragmented, both in the executive and legislative arms of government. The development of government regulation began early on, with the development of the environmental movement. During the Nixon administration, the EPA was setup to address a host of environmental challenges. However, the Agency faced a significant setback during the Regan administration as the then president sought to strip it of its powers, encouraging industry friendly regulation. The EPA was, however, restored to its former glory through the Clinton administration. Some of the major environmental issues that have been addressed through these policies include ozone layer depletion and acid deposition. Nevertheless, assessment of the impact of these policies has been complicated by the lack of a concise means of establishing the costs associated with the policies.


Barcott, B. (2008). Changing all the rules. New York: Free Press.

Graham, J. (2010). Cleaner air, warmer climate. Bloomington: Indiana University Press Letters, 33,4,:78-90.

NRDC. (2013). An introduction to federal environmental policy. NRDC. 13

Retrieved from http://www.nrdc.org/legislation/policy-basics/files/policy-basics-full.pdf.

Pizer, W. A., & Kopp, R. (2005). Calculating the costs of environmental regulation. Handbook of Environmental Economics, 3, 1307-1351.

Rushefsky, E. (2012). Public policy in the united states at the dawn of the twenty-first century. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Scenic, H. (2009). Scenic Hudson collection: Records relating to the Storm King case, 1963–1981. Archives and Special Collections. Poughkeepsie, NY: Marist College.

Schauffler, S. (2011). When will the Antarctic ozone hole recover? Geophysical Research.



Ultius, Inc. "Environmental Policies in the United States." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 09 Sep. 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/environmental-policies-in-the-united-states.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2014, September 09). Environmental Policies in the United States. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/environmental-policies-in-the-united-states.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Environmental Policies in the United States." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 09, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/environmental-policies-in-the-united-states.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Environmental Policies in the United States." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 09, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/environmental-policies-in-the-united-states.html.

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