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Truth is Powerful

Building an American political consensus behind environmental sustainability


Credit: CC0 Public Domain When environmental protection was a barely noticed issue on the political agenda, it was able to achieve massive support from the American public. The air pollution, water pollution, solid and toxic waste programs of the 1970s and 1980s were not partisan issues. In 1972 the Water Act was enacted over then-President Nixon’s veto. Public support for these laws was well over 70%, and the laws were crafted by a bipartisan coalition of committed legislators. What happened?

Part of what happened was the anti-regulatory ideology of the Reagan era and the rhetoric of “job killing regulations.” But even President Reagan had to walk back anti-regulation moves in the EPA. EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch-Buford (yes, the mother of the Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch) and her Associate Administrator for Hazardous waste, Rita Lavelle, were sent packing, and the first EPA Administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus was brought back to steer EPA back to its politically moderate moorings.

EPA regulation was serious, and enforcement was real, but industry was given plenty of time to comply with rules, and generally speaking only businesses that were marginal to begin with were harmed by environmental rules. But the growing role of money in politics and fierce […]

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