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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: 21 June 2021

The Environmental Protection Agency: 1970–2010

The Environmental Protection Agency: 1970–2010

5 (p.71) The Environmental Protection Agency: 1970–2010
The Life Cycles of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency

James K. Conant

Peter J. Balint

Oxford University Press

The official birthdate of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is December 2, 1970. On that day the Senate confirmed William Ruckelshaus, President Nixon’s nominee to be the administrator of the new agency, and the “EPA opened for business in a tiny suite of offices at 20th and L Streets in Northwest Washington, DC.” The new agency took over programs and offices related to environmental protection previously operating in the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Food and Drug Administration, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Federal Radiation Council. In this chapter, we examine and attempt to explain what happened to this major regulatory agency over the forty-year period from its birth in 1970 to 2010. In doing so, we test hypotheses that follow from the four categories of theoretical agency life cycle models introduced in Chapter 3. These models differ in their predictions for the trajectories of federal agencies. The biological model predicts that agencies will grow rapidly during their early life before reaching a relatively stable maturity. Over subsequent decades agencies may carry on indefinitely with declining vigor, or be absorbed into other agencies, or die, although scholars debate both the process and probability of agency mortality. The partisan political model predicts a more turbulent life history for agencies in which changing party control of Congress and the White House will buffet government organizations more or less routinely. According to this model, federal agencies will often be caught in the middle of partisan ideological battles over the importance and value of the social functions they were created to address. The incremental model suggests that the best predictor of how agencies will fare in the near future is how they have fared in the recent past. That is, agencies tend to be insulated from external political and economic fluctuations and therefore generally experience relatively minor changes over time to their budgets and operations. The issue-attention model predicts that agencies’ fortunes are tied to the vagaries of current events.

Keywords:   Battered agency syndrome, Budget request--budgetary authority gap, EPA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Guns-butter trade-off, New Federalism, Offsetting collections, Public Law, political and historical context, Stopping the Pendulum

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