Protecting the Environment from 21st Century Challenges
Most of the nation’s major environmental laws are in serious need of a tune-up or an outright overhaul. Crafted in an era when industrial and automotive pollution was largely unchecked, and when other forms of environmental degradation were barely regulated, the laws were designed to prevent then-common and egregious practices. They made important progress, helping to protect the nation’s air and water, preserving and rebuilding many endangered species, preventing some habitat destruction, creating a system for cleaning up toxic waste dumps, and more.
But new environmental challenges have arisen in the ensuing decades, problems that were not addressed – that weren’t even contemplated – by these original statutes. Moreover, many of these laws have been eroded by too permissive regulation and enforcement, and by judicial rulings narrowing their scope and impact.
In 2006, CPR launched its Next Generation Environmental Initiative with the goal of creating two important packages of proposals for congressional consideration. The first set of proposals included a do-it-right-now tune-up for the nation’s environmental laws. The second is a far-sighted effort to envision an environmental protection regime for the 21st Century.
NextGen Part One: In April 2007, CPR issued CPR for the Environment (1.6 meg download), the first of two publications from the Next Generation Environmental Initiative. The report offers ideas for a tune-up of the nation’s existing statutes, suggesting specific revisions to Superfund; the Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act; Endangered Species Act; Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act; National Environmental Policy Act; Occupational Safety and Health Act; and Toxic Substances Control Act. CPR for the Environment was written with leadership from CPR's Alyson Flournoy, and contributions from her fellow Member Scholars William L. Andreen, Mary Jane Angelo, John S. Applegate, Victor B. Flatt, William Funk, Joel A. Mintz, Clifford Rechtschaffen, Sidney Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, Wendy E. Wagner and CPR Policy Analyst Margaret Clune Giblin.
NextGen Part Two: In 2010, CPR Member Scholar Alyson Flournoy, joined by former CPR Policy Analyst Margaret Clune Giblin, and Ryan Feinberg, Heather Halter and Christina Storz, published the second of the two Next Generation Initiative documents, The Future of Environmental Protection: The Case for a National Environmental Legacy Act (1.5 meg download), offering a new and far-seeing approach to protecting the nation’s environment. The National Environmental Legacy Act (NELA) Flournoy and her co-authors propose would identify certain natural resources under federal ownership and control as important, and sometimes finite, environmental resources, and establish resource-specific limits on further depletion, so that future generations would be able to enjoy and use them. So, as the authors write, “recognizing biodiversity as an environmental asset, NELA would address the problem of alarming rates of species endangerment and extinction by seeking to protect species long before they become endangered or threatened, through efforts to protect ecosystems that account for all the factors in an ecosystem that affect species population.”