Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sharpsteen on Hoornbeek's Water Pollution Policies and the American States

H-Environment recently posted a review by Bill Sharpsteen of John A. Hoornbeek, Water Pollution Policies and the American States: Runaway Bureaucracies or Congressional Control? (State University of New York Press, 2011):
Drawing on a substantial amount of previous research and what the author cryptically refers to as personal experience, Hoornbeek breaks down the complex state and federal machinery behind the country’s water pollution laws, and how some of it has succeeded while leaving much left to do. As he puts it, “as one looks at the evolution of congressional direction in water pollution control, one sees a continuing process of largely predictable policy outputs, followed by less certain policy impacts, followed by highly uncertain policy outcomes”. Nothing is easy when it comes to a problem as endemic as water pollution.
According to Sharpsteen, Hoornbeek distinguishes between the Era of Supportive Federalism (1948-71), the Era of Directive Federalism (1972-86), and the Era of Experimental Federalism (1987-present).
He argues decisively for Congress to not just hand off the problem to the states but take on more of a leadership role: “The current experimental era has now outlived its usefulness,” he writes, and later, “continued progress is best facilitated in the context of strong actions that only Congress can enable”. Given the strong sentiment these days for less federal involvement at the local level, this might be a tough sell, but given the data that Hoornbeek rolls out, he is persuasive.
This is one of the greatest values of this book. It takes us through what has gone wrong and what has gone right in terms of implementing water pollution law, and then how to build upon those successes.... Hoornbeek is incredibly thorough in his analysis of that research, making it abundantly clear that just because Congress passes a law, it doesn’t mean that it will be fully implemented across the land.
Please send us news of other reviews and publications you think would be of interest!

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