Beginning in the 1960s, Americans became increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of industrial growth. Engine exhaust from growing numbers of automobiles, for instance, was blamed for smog and other forms of air pollution in large cities. Pollution represented what economists call an externality—a cost that the responsible entity can escape but that society as a whole must bear. With market forces unable to address such problems, many environmentalists suggested that the government had a moral obligation to protect the earth’s fragile ecosystems, even if doing so required some economic growth to be sacrificed.
The EPA sets and enforces tolerable limits of pollution, and it establishes timetables to bring polluters into line with standards, an important aspect of its work since most of these requirements are recent and industries must be given reasonable time, often several years, to conform to new standards. The EPA also has the authority to coordinate and support the research and anti-pollution efforts of state and local governments, private and public groups, and educational institutions. Furthermore, regional EPA offices have the power to develop, propose, and implement approved regional programs for comprehensive environmental protection. While the EPA delegates some responsibilities such as monitoring and enforcement to state governments, it retains the authority to enforce policies through fines, sanctions, and other measures granted by the federal government.
The EPA has intervened on many environmental issues and certainly has helped improve our water quality and air quality in this country.
What should be the role of government in improving our environment? Should the government get involved regardless of the cost to improve our environment or should there be some economic benefit as well? What is your opinion on the role of government on these issues?