EPA at Helm’s Deep: Surviving the Fourth Attack on Environmental Law

For much of the past 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the laws it administers have been under siege from powerful economic, ideological and political actors who believe that the companies subject to the EPA’s regulatory authority should have greater freedom to go about their business unimpeded by “senseless” and “burdensome” regulations. The assaults came in three waves that peaked during the first years of the Reagan Administration, the first year of the 104th Congress, and the first six years of the George W. Bush Administration, respectively. The EPA seized the offensive during the first two years of the Obama Administration, though was driven back by a reinvigorated business community that took advantage of an economic crisis, what McGarity calls the “fourth assault.” Whether the EPA and the foundational environmental laws that it implements will survive the fourth assault is by no means clear.

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