Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



When Congress sought in 1995 to restructure the federal environmental regulatory schemes, it looked like a good fight to pick.' Congress, Republican-controlled for the first time in decades, was armed with an apparent mandate to shrink the federal government. Moreover, Americans were concerned about jobs and the economy. Environmental regulation, so the argument goes, impedes competitiveness, which in turn leads to loss of jobs. In addition, if history is any guide, environmental concerns tend to suffer in times when the economic interest of individuals is the driving political force. Given these dual concerns over the economy and the size of the federal government, the time seemed particularly ripe for an overhaul of the cumbersome environmental regulatory structure.

One year later, Congress is, if not licking its wounds, at least reconsidering the voting public's commitment to environmental regulation. The Republican Speaker of the House has admitted to badly misjudging the view of Americans on the environment. The Democratic President, whose environmental credentials have always been somewhat suspect, has nonetheless taken advantage of the Republican party's blunders to promote himself as a defender of the environment. In the aftermath of a turbulent legislative year, and in the face of what looks to be an equally contentious election year, this Special Project sheds some light on the underlying issues which animated the abortive attempt at reform.