Science, Politics, Law and the Arc of the Clean Water Act: The Role of Assumptions in the Adoption of a Pollution Control Landmark

40 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2009 Last revised: 28 Oct 2013

See all articles by Robert L. Glicksman

Robert L. Glicksman

George Washington University - Law School

Matthew R. Batzel

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 28, 2009

Abstract

This article examines the assumptions upon which Congress relied in enacting the 1972 Clean Water Act and the extent to which they have been borne out or belied as the federal and state governments have implemented their statutory responsibilities in the quest to achieve acceptably clean water. It traces the development of federal water pollution control legislation before 1972, highlighting the deficiencies that contributed to the need for a new approach in 1972. It then examines the scientific and technical, political, and legal assumptions that helped shape the 1972 Clean Water Act in an effort to determine whether the failure to achieve fully the statute’s goals is inherent in the statute’s design or is more likely the result of the law’s incomplete implementation. The article concludes that a surprisingly large share of the assumptions upon which Congress built the Clean Water Act were valid and have helped to make the statute an environmental success story. The statute’s failure to perform even more admirably than it has is due largely to a lack of legislative clarity in addressing the role of wetlands in preserving the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and to Congress’ unwillingness to adopt, or force the states to adopt, measures to control nonpoint source pollution.

Keywords: Water pollution, Clean Water Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, pollution control, federal environmental law

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Glicksman, Robert L. and Batzel, Matthew R., Science, Politics, Law and the Arc of the Clean Water Act: The Role of Assumptions in the Adoption of a Pollution Control Landmark (December 28, 2009). Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Forthcoming, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 484, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 484, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1529023

Robert L. Glicksman (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.gwu.edu/Faculty/profile.aspx?id=16085

Matthew R. Batzel

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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