HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, June 2, 2005

New Public Health Law/Environment Book

Professors Christopher H. Schoeder and Rene Ssteinzo have edited a new book entitled, A NEW PROGRESSIVE AGENDA FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT, which has been published by Carolina Academic Press (2005).  In a recent review, Michele Morrone, Environmental Health Science, Ohio University notes:

You only have to look as far as the title of this book to realize that the authors have an agenda. If you are a critic of the way in which the Bush Administration is managing environmental issues, reading this book will strengthen and focus your arguments. On the other hand, if you are a supporter of Bush environmental policy, this book will help you understand the positions of your adversaries. The authors, who are legal scholars from various academic institutions across the country, systematically summarize issues and shortcomings with environmental regulations, specifically during George W. Bush’s Administration, and present a plan based on progressive principles to address these shortcomings.

One of the major philosophical shifts that we have made since the inaugural 1970 Earth Day is that environmental laws were originally enacted to protect public health from harms caused by pollution. When the U.S. government first started writing and implementing environmental and public health laws and regulations, there was very little scientific information about what the priorities should be. However, no one doubted that rivers catching on fire and needing headlights in the middle of the day were probably bad signals for the environment and human health. In this short 35-year time span, science has evolved at a fantastic rate, and this evolution may have actually contributed to inadequate environmental protection. One major emphasis of this book is the misuse of science in environmental decision-making, because conservative policymakers have exploited uncertainties in science for political reasons.

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One of the best sections of the book presents tools that the policymakers can use in regulating the environment. In this section, the authors find technology-based standards and substance bans to be “useful” tools. Instruments such as the Toxic Release Inventory, which requires industry to disclose information and emissions trading approaches to air pollution control, are labeled “neutral” tools. The approaches that are most harmful to the environment are currently being used by the administration. These include spending an excessive amount of time analyzing and gathering additional information before decisions are made and so-called “voluntary” programs. The progressive agenda calls for strategies to eliminate tools such as cost-benefit analysis in lieu of making precautionary decisions.


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