New Study Charts the Growth of Environmental Law

Washington, D.C., July 17, 2007—According to a new study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the conventional idea that progressive environmental causes suffer under conservative leadership is wrong. In fact, the study uses quantitative data to show that environmental issues have experienced a consistent and uncommon expansion of legislative activity over more than 30 years, compared to other issue areas. This trend has occurred irrespective of the party in control of Congress or the White House.

"Environmental activists, policy scholars, and others claim that the environmental movement is in decline, suffering from attacks on the right on Capitol Hill and from the White House in recent years," said study author and CEI Director of Risk & Environmental Policy Angela Logomasini. "Yet given some distinctive attributes associated with this issue, the progressive environmental cause receives considerable attention in Washington, and the resulting policies are largely progressive in nature. Efforts to reform environmental laws to make them less restrictive have largely failed. Congress has even rejected modest efforts to make the laws more effective, while reducing needless burdens on basic freedoms."

The study indicates that the progressive environmental regulatory state is extensive and entrenched. It has important impacts on American pocketbooks, technological advancement, and basic freedoms. And unfortunately, many environmental laws have become counterproductive. Yet reforming these laws has grown very difficult. “The inability for lawmakers to depart from the conventional wisdom is a serious problem” says Logomasini. “Substantive reform of laws dealing with endangered species, wetlands, recycling and property rights – just to name a few – are greatly needed to ensure both improvements in environmental quality and to safeguard basic freedoms.”

Environmentalism’s Legal Legacy is part of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s ongoing work to bring the ideas of free markets and limited government to the arena of environmental policy. This report is the first in a series assessing the scope of the environmental regulatory state and its impacts.