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The Life Cycles of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency1970 - 2035$
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James K. Conant and Peter J. Balint

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190203702

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190203702.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 June 2021

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Rise of Environmental Protection in the 1970s, and the Political Drama of the Next Three Decades

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Rise of Environmental Protection in the 1970s, and the Political Drama of the Next Three Decades

Chapter:
2 (p.13) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Rise of Environmental Protection in the 1970s, and the Political Drama of the Next Three Decades
Source:
The Life Cycles of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency
Author(s):

James K. Conant

Peter J. Balint

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190203702.003.0005

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was approved unanimously in the Senate and with near unanimity in the House of Representatives in December 1969. President Nixon signed the act into law on January 1, 1970. The new statute was both brief and farsighted. In fewer than 3,500 words the congressional authors of NEPA articulated for the first time a national policy on the environment, set in motion an innovative regulatory process centered on environmental impact statements, institutionalized public participation in federal environmental decision making, and introduced the requirement that the president report annually to Congress on the nation’s environmental status and trends. NEPA also included a provision that established a new agency, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in the Executive Office of the President. The CEQ’s assigned statutory role was to implement the environmental impact statement process, prepare the president’s annual environmental report on the condition of the environment, develop policy proposals for solving environmental problems, and coordinate efforts across the federal government to address environmental concerns. As stated in the law, NEPA is designed to “encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment”; to “promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man”; and to “fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.” The references to promoting harmony between people and the environment, protecting the biosphere, and affirming the nation’s responsibility for environmental stewardship illustrate an understanding of the scope, scale, and significance of environmental matters that was significantly ahead of its time. The language in NEPA quoted above anticipated by twenty years the concern for the Earth’s biosphere and the concept of environmental sustainability that would become more widely articulated in the run-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, NEPA has had an enduring global impact. By the law’s fortieth anniversary, a majority of U.S. states had established their own environmental impact statement requirements and more than 160 nations worldwide had adopted similar legislation.

Keywords:   Acid rain, Cap-and-trade, Fracking, Hazardous (toxic) chemicals, Hydraulic fracturing, Incentive-based regulatory approach, Ozone ambient air pollution, PM10, Santa Barbara oil spill, Silent Spring, Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, Trade

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