A recurring theme in scholarship on environmental regulation is the roots of the American approach to environmental regulation, and to what extent this approach is exceptional.
April's issue of Studies in American Political Development has an article in this vein by David Brian Robertson, "Leader to Laggard: How Founding Institutions Have Shaped American Environmental Policy". The abstract:
The U.S. led the world in environmental policy in the 1970s, but now lags behind comparable nations and resists joining others in tackling climate change. Two embedded, entwined, and exceptional American institutions—broad private property rights and competitive federalism—are necessary for explaining this shift. These two institutions shaped the exceptional stringency of 1970s American environmental laws and the powerful backlash against these laws that continues today. American colonies ensured broad private rights to use land and natural resources for profit. The colonies and the independent state governments that followed wielded expansive authority to govern this commodified environment. In the 1780s, Congress underwrote state governance of the privatized environment by directing the parceling and transfer of federal land to private parties and of environmental governance to future states. The 1787 Constitution cemented these relationships and exposed states to interstate economic competition. Environmental laws of the 1970s imposed unprecedented challenges to the environmental prerogatives long protected by these institutions, and the beneficiaries responded with a wide-ranging counterattack. Federalism enabled this opposition to build powerful regional alliances to stymie action on climate change. These overlooked institutional factors are necessary to explain why Canadian and American environmental policies have diverged.